Following months of speculation and with just a week to go until the service rolls out in Japan I’d love to be able to say we finally know exactly what the new PlayStation Plus is all about. After a partial reveal of what’s coming to the revamped service we’re a step closer to finding out, yet looking at the list of games available across the three tiers the precise shape isn’t any clearer. It’s another mumble of an announcement, in keeping with the air of slight incoherence that’s surrounded the project since we first heard murmurs of what was once known as Spartacus.
Sony has dragged its heels when coming up with what was once rumoured as a Game Pass rival, but perhaps that perception is part of the problem. The new PlayStation Plus doesn’t have the drive or disruptive purpose of Game Pass. Instead, it’s merely a merging of the existing services PlayStation had in Plus and Now, which partly explains the incoherence as the two are smashed together in something of a muddle.
It was possibly naive to think this might have been the moment when PlayStation took a step back to reassess and retool its services to take on the game changer that’s been Microsoft’s Game Pass, and Sony has been vocal in saying it sees itself taking a different approach. That doesn’t really explain the half-heartedness of the announcement, though, or the fuzziness around certain elements – are those remasters the PS2 classics we previously saw on PS4? How’s Ape Escape going to look running on a PS5? Why not at least give us a glimpse of heartwarming crowd pleasers like Syphon Filter or Jumping Flash – the original Mirror’s Edge! – in the here and now?
Maybe the disappointment comes from the sense of an opportunity missed. PlayStation’s history is rich and deep, matched only really by Nintendo in pure nostalgia stakes, and for a certain audience – well, for me anyway – a core part of the appeal of the revamped PlayStation Plus is opening that up again and getting reacquainted with some stone cold classics. A numb list doesn’t really do any of that justice, and certainly doesn’t convey any real passion or joy. This week’s announcement of the games on offer has the sunken shoulders of a brief that’s been passed back and forth across a thousand desks until there’s no discernible life left.
Which, just a week out from its initial launch, puts the revamped PlayStation Plus in an awkward spot. It’s not as coherent as Nintendo Switch Online – a service which is obviously a bit crap, but one that is cheap and gives you a decent amount of Nintendo’s history to toy with – or as comprehensive as Microsoft’s own offering. Indeed, the lack of fanfare around the reveal of the new PlayStation Plus can make it come across like Sony delivering its own Game Pass through gritted teeth.
Perhaps that’s unfair, and it’s worth noting for newcomers to the PlayStation ecosystem this revised Plus does offer a decent service. If you’re lucky enough to pick up a new PlayStation 5, what better way to unlock a sizable catalogue, bolstered by modern classics such as Miles Morales and Returnal alongside a fair slice of first-party games from Sony’s remarkable run on PS4 and plenty more besides. There’s undoubtedly plenty of bang for buck for a certain audience and while it’s no Game Pass killer it’s clear that was never the intention. For all that, though, there’s still a lingering sense this revamped PlayStation Plus could be so much more.