Sony’s big revamp of PS Plus is here. It’s pretty cool. It could also use some work on some of its most-hyped perks, such as game demos and classic hits.
Announced back in March, PS Plus 2.0 (not the official name but definitely the easiest shorthand) is a rework of Sony’s disparate subscription services. Fundamentally, it combines the game streaming of PS Now with the litany of perks from PS Plus. Though PS Plus 2.0 has been available in various markets for a few weeks, it rolled out stateside yesterday.
The pricing model is needlessly confusing
Before PS Plus 2.0 rolled out, observers flagged its multi-tier pricing model for being more complicated than it needed to be. Short version: $10 a month gets you PS Plus Essential—more or less exactly what PS Plus was two days ago, and for the same price. $15 grants you access to PS Plus Extra, which includes a Netflix-style games-on-demand library with hundreds of PS4 and PS5 titles. And $18 a month gets you PS Plus Premium, adding the ability to stream games and to check out time-limited game demos, plus access to a bunch of classic games from prior generations. (Here’s a rundown of what exactly you get with each tier.)
Now that PS Plus 2.0 is here…yep, still confusing! Sony says it offered prorated pricing for upgrades to higher tiers for people with existing PS Plus memberships. You can upgrade right from the PS Plus dashboard on your PS5; in fact, it’s the very first button.
The PS5 dashboard will remind you which tier you’re subscribed to.
I decided to upgrade to PS Plus Premium, since that’s the tier with all the good stuff. (In the upgrade menu, you can tap the square button to show a handy compare-and-contrast list between what tier you’re at and what tier you’re considering.) A pop-up window informed me that a comically specific payment of $19.23 would cover a level-up to Premium for the remaining four-ish months of my plan. Supposedly, this is a “one-time amount,” but you know how it goes. We’ve all been burned by the fine print on recurring payments. I guess I’ll know for sure with next month’s credit card statement. Wish me luck!
Strangely, after upgrading, the PS Plus app crashed. I had to restart my PS5 to get it working again.
Game trials leave a lot to be desired
One of the big selling points of PS Plus Premium is the option to test out recently released big-budget games. The launch-day list of demos includes just two first-party games, one of which is a remastered bundle of two games that are otherwise available in full as part of the PS Plus Extra game library. Here’s the full list of game demos currently available:
Horizon Forbidden West
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
WWE 2K22 (PS5 only)
Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves (PS5 only)
Hot Wheels Unleashed (PS5 only)
Lego City Undercover
Farming Simulator 22
The Cruel King and the Great Hero
Crusader Kings III (PS5 only)
SpellForce III Reforced (PS5 only)
Five hours with Horizon Forbidden West is almost enough time to finish the tutorial!
Horizon Forbidden West and Cyberpunk 2077 offer five-hour trials. The rest of the games are playable for one to three hours. (Let’s hear the world’s biggest “lol” at three hours of Crusader Kings III being remotely enough time to grasp what it’s all about.) Sony has previously said more demos will become available over time. An April report suggested Sony is starting to mandate developers create game trials that last at least two hours, but only if their game costs more than $34.
The backward compatibility offerings are thin
Another big selling point of the PS Plus Premium tier is its access to games from older PlayStation consoles. While more than 300 PlayStation 3 games are available to stream, that’s the thing: They’re only available to stream. (Sony recommends a minimum connection of 5 mbps. You can also download and stream “hundreds” of PlayStation games from every other generation, including from the PS4 and PS5.) The resolution tops out at 720p, according to Ars Technica’s testing, though Sony says it can go up to 1080p, depending on your connection. And that’s to say nothing of the latency, however subtle, that tends to plague game streaming. It’s a shame the rich PS3 catalog isn’t downloadable.
Sony did not make it easy to find the full list of PS3 games, either. If you click on “classic games” under the “explore” submenu, you get taken to the full list of games from the joint PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable catalog, which we’ll get to in a sec. But if you scroll down to “all new PlayStation Plus benefits” and click on the “classics catalog” banner, you’ll get taken to a second splash screen. The PS3 games are listed on the second row. Scrolling all the way to the right will bring you to a “show all games” option.
I suppose you could also search for the exact game you want to play, if you know it’s part of the game library. And once you stream a game, it’ll show up on your home screen as one of your most recently played games. The PS5 currently limits that list to 10 icons.
Many “classic” PlayStation games, like Dark Cloud 2—which first came out in 2002 for the PS2 and was re-released with “up-rendering” in 2016 for PS4—are listed as PS4 games.
The non-PS3 classic offerings are, so far, a pittance. By my count, there are 38 games from across all three platforms (PS, PS2, and PSP). At the moment, even by making use of the filtering options (that little checkmark box on the left side of the screen), there’s no way to filter by platform. For all intents and purposes, PS Plus 2.0 considers PS, PS2, and PSP games as undifferentiated “classics,” the same way you or I would look at the temperatures 80º F, 85º F, and 90º F and say, “Ah, shorts weather.”
(On the bright side, word recently emerged that Sony’s fixed the major presentation blunder it made in PS1 games during the new service’s rollout in other regions. All games should now run at their intended speeds and framerates.)
It is unclear if Sony has any plans to expand the classic offerings, or to make PS3 games downloadable. Representatives for Sony did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
But there’s a ton of potential here
Sony’s first-party portfolio is obviously a huge boon to PS Plus, and a good number of the company’s most popular games are indeed part of the game library. In terms of the sheer number of games you can play, the new games-on-demand library (available at both PS Plus Extra and Premium) is impressive, borderline overwhelming.
It starts with the PS Plus Collection, a 20-odd batch of some of the biggest PS4 games, available at no extra cost to PS Plus subscribers who own a PS5. This hasn’t gone anywhere, despite concerns that it might prior to the rollout of PS Plus 2.0.
In May, Sony revealed the lineup of games heading to PS Plus 2.0’s games-on-demand library. Now that the library is actually out, it’s clear the full list is bigger than expected.
The inclusion of a good chunk of Ubisoft’s portfolio, including the behemoth-sized Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, definitely beefs it out. PS5 exclusives like Demon’s Souls and Returnal are also there, and (correctly) listed under the “must play” banner. At first glance, there’s no shortage of indie hits: the psychologically thrilling Observation, the hilariously maddening Death Squared, the narratively riveting Virginia, the deliciously minimalist Thomas Was Alone. Sony previously said Final Fantasy XV would be available, and it is among the lineup, but it turns out the service also has a ton of other entries from Square Enix’s seminal RPG series, including the landmark VII and X. Also of note: Many of these games were previously listed on Microsoft’s competing Xbox Game Pass service—Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD literally just left—so I have to imagine observers will draw starker comparisons between the two service’s offerings in the coming weeks.
Though it has its shortcomings, PS Plus 2.0 has some solid potential. But it’s just a start. I’m looking forward to seeing how it changes over the coming weeks and months.