Sony is levelling up PS Plus by dividing it into three tiers and offering additional perks. For the new PS Plus Extra tier, you’ll get access to a catalogue of approximately 400 games on-demand, while the PS Plus Premium tier will add in a ton of retro titles on top. It’s a huge and necessary upgrade, incorporating many of PS Now’s features under a more presentable umbrella.
But, unlike competing subscription services like Xbox Game Pass, it won’t include first-party games at launch. In an interview with Games Industry, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan explained: “It's not a road that we're going to go down with this new service. We feel if we were to do that with the games that we make at PlayStation Studios […] the level of investment that we need to make in our studios would not be possible, and we think the knock-on effect on the quality of the games that we make would not be something that gamers want.”
PlayStation makes extremely expensive single player games, like Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarok, and has moved to actually increase the price of its titles on the PS5. Microsoft argues that Xbox Game Pass is sustainable, and that subscriptions lead to higher sales. Although, while the Xbox division is profitable overall, the organisation is overall less revealing with its balance sheets than its rivals, and it’s unclear how much the Redmond firm is using its trillion dollar warchest to prop up its subscription.
For Ryan, he’s not ruling anything out entirely: “The way the world is changing so very quickly at the moment, nothing is forever,” he said. “I don't want to cast anything in stone at this stage. All I'm talking to today is the approach we're taking in the short term. The way our publishing model works right now, it doesn't make any sense. But things can change very quickly in this industry, as we all know.”
Many, including Microsoft, believe subscriptions will be the future of gaming – as is the case with television, movies, and music now. Ryan, however, doesn’t agree: “Our PS Plus subscriber number has grown from zero in 2010 to 48 million now. And we anticipate, for our services, that we will see further growth for the subscriber number. But the medium of gaming is so very different to music and to linear entertainment, that I don't think we'll see it go to the levels that we see with Spotify and Netflix.”
Instead, he believes live service games like Fortnite are arguably a bigger indication of where games are going: “That phenomenon of the live service game has, in a very large part, fuelled the enormous growth in the gaming industry that we've seen over the last ten years. I think that trend towards live services will continue, and if you look for a model in our category of entertainment, which supports sustained engagement over a long period of time, live services games arguably fit that bill better than a subscription service.” Sony recently announced it has ten live service titles in production.
Despite all this, for Ryan, PlayStation is all about choice: “There are obviously many millions of people who are happy to subscribe to PS Plus. We offer them that option on the platform, and we think that we are offering a significantly improved option with the changes we have made. Equally, if people want to play Fortnite or Call of Duty or FIFA, and have their sustained engagement that way, that's fine, too. Nobody is obliged to do anything.”