PlayStation Plus, the online service for PlayStation games, underwent a large change in early 2019, which set the tone for the year. Though its releases included several that GameSpot rated highly, it also ended its support for legacy games on PS3 and Vita. That effectively closed the book on the last generation, just as Sony has begun rolling out its plans for the next one.
PS3 and Vita Officially Exit PS Plus
In March 2018, Sony announced that the following February would mark the last PS3 and Vita offerings on PS Plus–effectively giving a full year of warning to anyone who might be considering an annual subscription plan. When the final month came, the company announced it was leaving off with one of its biggest PS3 games, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The month also included Divekick, Rogue Aces, and Gunhouse with cross-buy for each.
The discontinuation did reduce the value of PS Plus, even for PS4-only players. Thanks to cross-buy functionality, you would often get three or more PS4 games in a given month. Also, Sony had announced that it would be reducing the number of Plus offerings per month, rather than matching the lack of PS3 and Vita with more PS4 games. It did offer an additional perk in the form of a significant increase to cloud storage.
Still, the reduction meant the free offerings on PlayStation Plus were cut by a third. Dedicated PlayStation fans with multiple platforms at their disposal had less to look forward to, and the new two-per-month offering was a match for Xbox’s Games with Gold service. Offering more games than the competitor had long been an advantage for Sony.
PlayStation Plus Price
The new pace of games also matched the Xbox Games with Gold price, and the two competing online services have become essentially similar. The price for Plus hasn’t changed since 2017, so in both cases you can now get online play and a handful of perks for $60 per year. In comparing Plus directly to Gold, the two are almost identical.
However, Microsoft made an aggressive move this year by pushing its Xbox Game Pass initiative. The company not only offered notable sale prices on Game Pass subscriptions, it also introduced Game Pass Ultimate as a package deal that includes a Gold subscription. Those two factors combined mean that at several points during the year it has been possible to get several months of Game Pass Ultimate for less than the price of a year of PlayStation Plus. At least so far, Sony has kept its similar subscription model PlayStation Now as separate from Plus, so there is no comparable discount package for PS4 users.
2019’s “Great” Games (or Better) On PS Plus
Throughout the year, Sony released several games that have been reviewed and given “Great” (8/10) scores or higher on GameSpot. The sheer number of included games is a big part of Plus’ value, but quality plays a part in evaluating the service as well. Check below for each of the top-scoring games released this year on PS Plus:
- For Honor – 8/10 (February) [Full Review]
- Hitman Season 1 – 8/10 (February) [Full Review]
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – 10/10 (February) [Full Review]
- The Witness – 9/10 (March) [Full Review]
- Overcooked – 8/10 (May) [Full Review]
- What Remains of Edith Finch – 9/10 (May) [Full Review]
- Borderlands: The Handsome Collection – 8/10 (June) [Full Review]
- Sonic Mania – 9/10 (June) [Full Review]
- Wipeout Omega Collection – 9/10 (August) [Full Review]
- Sniper Elite 4 – 8/10 (August) [Full Review]
- MLB The Show 19 – 9/10 (October) [Full Review]
- The Last of Us – 8/10 (October) [Full Review]
- Nioh – 9/10 (November) [Full Review]
- Titanfall 2 – 9/10 (December) [Full Review]
How Can PlayStation Plus Improve In 2020?
One of the biggest unknowns is how Sony will handle PlayStation Plus’ free offerings with the advent of the PlayStation 5. We know the company is launching the new console in holiday 2020, but it hasn’t announced if it will be accompanied by PlayStation Plus games. The PS4 did launch with Contrast and Resogun on Plus, so there’s precedent for a new console launch with games already on the service.
The company may also need to step up its game to compete with the increasing pressure from streaming services. While PlayStation Now has been streaming for quite some time, the launch of Google Stadia and impending Microsoft xCloud signal that it is no longer alone in the streaming space, and will need to improve both its streaming technology and its value offering. Microsoft has also made leaps with its Game Pass service, especially in its commitment to offer first-party games through the service at launch. Sony has not matched this commitment, though it has offered some big-budget titles like God of War for a limited time.
To compete in this marketplace, Sony should consider pairing its PlayStation Plus and Now services, perhaps with a unified subscription. It also could take notes from Microsoft in offering a more aggressive library of included games in PlayStation Now, which would benefit the whole ecosystem of Sony online services. Behind the scenes, Sony has partnered with Microsoft for cloud services and other back-end technologies, which could have an impact on its quality.
PlayStation Plus has been a boon for Sony and a successful service in its own right. The marketplace is changing, and the company has an opportunity to change with it and compete directly with Microsoft. That will help offer players a choice of similar services when making their buying decisions for the next generation and beyond.
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