What the hell? That was my initial statement after reading the documentation outlining the “NEW” PlayStation Plus packages, which are expected to roll out this upcoming Q2 of 2022. The excitement was in palpable, the expectation; undeniable. Rumours were swelling, and swelling after months of anticipation that had fans questioning “what is Project Spartacus?” Well I’ll tell you what it’s not, it’s not “PlayStation Game Pass”. This could have been a ‘copy-pasta’ job, with some added flavour and flair from Sony, instead we’re treated to a watered-down, frivolous expansion pack. We’re not begging for scraps here PlayStation, we’re asking for a premium subscription service in which XBOX has been able to provide for five years now. With buyouts occurring across the green brand, and popular titles now launching on Game Pass day one, it’s never been a better time to be an XBOX Gamer.
What it should have been…
PlayStation Plus was heralded as great value at a monthly fee of $9.99USD, which fairly traded its previously free online services for two monthly titles at no additional cost, plus discounts on premium AAA releases. While the latter has seemingly slipped under the radar, those that have had the service without Sony’s latest hardware have been able to claim exclusives, granted they ever get a hold of a unit. But here we are, PlayStation Plus revamped with hopes of Sony promising the same premiums XBOX have been happily handing their consumers for a near half-decade, to finally be matched by the Japanese hardware conglomerate. Yet, it’s a big fat nope, and it wholeheartedly, sincerely comes directly from its own CEO & President, Big Jimbo Ryan. Poignantly describing each tier and their costs in a blog post from the 29th of March, Ryan tries to sell consumers on the “cloud”, detailing what I would describe as a merger between PS Plus and PS Now services.
While they do try to empathise with Countries without the cloud – and I cannot believe we are listed as one of these countries, for the love of God – PlayStation’s compromise is a “Deluxe” tier that essentially strikes out the PS3 back catalogue, and leaves us with scraps. Unless these 400+ titles for PS4 and PS5 are of any value, PlayStation have a massive problem on their hands. Why are we not good enough to have day one, first party titles on this service? I understand the roll-out of games in comparison to XBOX, are at odds with an easy 4:1 by comparison, but it’s not rocket science; Charge more. Yes, of course it’s Communism 101, but that’s business. In an interview with gamesindustry.biz, Ryan elaborated on PlayStation’s reasoning behind no Day-One titles will be coming to the service, ever;
"We feel if we were to do that with the games that we make at PlayStation Studios, that virtuous cycle will be broken. 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."
What? What does that even mean?
Jim Ryan, President & CEO, Sony Interactive Entertainment.
You’re not pinky swearing with development teams and publishers here, you’re signing contracts and making sure they’re getting value for time. I do read this as PlayStation not wanting to immediately make payouts, or giving publishers the chance to playball with Sony and naming their price to place big budget games on the subscription service, but I also look at it from the flip-side of the coin where it’s a completely corporate structured response that translates to “how am I going to line my own pockets?”. With more news of Big name acquisitions from Ryan himself on this week’s Official PlayStation Podcast, the President and CEO continued to rally behind PlayStation Plus’ new outlook, with hopes of enticing other third-parties to make that leap to the blue brand “organically”;
“We’re in a really good place with PlayStation Studios and have been for the past few years. The critical success and the commercial success of the games that they’ve been making, that has given us permission to invest heavily in content creation. We’re growing our studios organically, and we’re growing through acquisition. We acquired five studios during the course of 2021, we’re in discussions with Bungie, and we have more planned. This is getting us into a virtuous cycle where success begets success.”
So acquisitions are absolutely intent, yet they wouldn’t want to expand on releasing first party titles via this “new” service? It’s a little contradictory, and counter intuitive. Releasing first party games on XBOX Game Pass has had nothing but a positive outreach to gamers and fans, allowing them to be acclimated with franchises and developers in which they had never previously discovered. There is an argument to be made against Game Pass, where XBOX have continuously avoided posting a profit-per-annum report, detailing if Game Pass has indeed been viable. But we’re at year five of the service, and I can’t think of any reason why XBOX would not continue catering to its audience, nor immediately reporting a shutdown or stripping it of day-one, first party/XBOX Game Studios’ releases. So, who’s zoomin’ who?
Is it a ‘back to the drawing board’ moment? Not entirely, but the omission of day-one releases leaves the service to be less-than-desirable to the majority of fans. It’s a matter of paying for convenience than anything, and sure XBOX owners are already doing that, but they get added benefit of having big name games on its release. Trying to board PlayStation faithful towards this is going to take some added work. Do I want to pay that extra fee, just so I can play inFamous on my PS5? or should I get my lazy ass off this chair and drag my PS3 out of the closet at no cost? To be fair, that second option is not all that bad. The nostalgia hit is fine, but emulation has also come a long way, and with PSX, PS2 and PSP PC emulation at levels of perfection, it’s hard to justify that tier alone, not to mention that most gamers will only be purchasing that tier to play their favourites rather than experiencing anything new from those libraries on offer.
So where are we at here? Well it’s simple. If PlayStation truly want to offer fans a premium service, then it was as simple as copy what XBOX are doing. The fact that they concluded with this washed offering, equates to a Bart Simpson “At least you tried” Cake being tossed in the trash. I love PlayStation, but damn this was a tough pill to swallow, and I can only hope that there may be a light at the end of tunnel, from this train wreck that continues to be commandeered by its uninspired leader. I’ll be further discussing the matter later this week on Operation PlayStation, with my special guest co-host; Co-Founder of XBOX Era and co-host of the XBOX Era Podcast, “Shpeshal_Ed” Nick Baker.