How Microsoft forced Sony to change its approach towards PlayStation gamers

Published on Jun 15, 2022 12:29 PM IST

Sony was forced by competition into a much-deliberated reconfiguration of its companion subscription service for PlayStation consoles, currently PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4

Some of the games that are available on Sony’s PlayStation. (HT Photo)
Some of the games that are available on Sony’s PlayStation. (HT Photo)

After years of confusing PlayStation gamers with fragmented subscription options, Sony is in the midst of a much-needed reconfiguration. PlayStation gaming console users will perhaps be most familiar with PlayStation Plus, a must-have if online gaming was on the agenda. Then there was PlayStation Now, which bundled a gaming buffet (all you can play, albeit with limited titles).

This is now being combined into what may finally become a comparatively more wholesome subscription, and it’ll still be called PlayStation Now. Sony’s efforts felt incomplete thus far, compared with Microsoft’s very slick Xbox GamePass subscription service for Xbox consoles and Windows PCs.

“This is an exciting time for us as we begin to bring our tremendous game catalogue to PlayStation gamers globally. Putting high-calibre games in the service is our priority, and we are pleased to launch with some of the most celebrated titles,” said Veronica Rogers, senior vice president of global sales and business operations for Sony PlayStation.

Sony says PlayStation Plus globally has 47 million members, while PlayStation Now has more than 3 million users. Notice the careful wording with “members”, which is different from active users. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity about it — Sony was forced by competition into a much-deliberated reconfiguration of its companion subscription service for PlayStation consoles, currently PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4.

What is changing and what isn’t?

In India, the modernised, and multi-tiered service, goes live on June 22. The base subscription option is PlayStation Plus Essential ( 499 per month). Not many changes with this tier compared with the earlier PlayStation Plus, including downloading two free PS4 games and one free PS5 game every month. A step up will be PlayStation Plus Extra ( 749 per month), which unlocks access to a buffet of games (400 and more). This tier’s real value is unlimited gaming. The key will be the titles which Sony offers, or doesn’t.

The flagship PlayStation Plus Deluxe ( 849 per month) tier adds access to the Classics Catalogue. For most PlayStation gamers, the Plus Extra tier will serve the purpose, though some may find the nostalgia of classic game titles worth the extra outlay.

How has Microsoft forced Sony to speed up the change?

PlayStation’s competition doesn’t come just from consoles, with its biggest rival being the Microsoft Xbox series. Smartphones, powerful as they are, pose a distraction with Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass services. Then there is the robust Windows PC ecosystem, within which are Nvidia GeForce Now and Microsoft’s own Xbox Game Pass. Unlimited gaming with a wide library of titles, for a subscription, is a common theme.

“We’re building a platform that can reach billions of players — whether on console, PC, or through Xbox cloud streaming — where players on any device they want to play on should be able to find the content they want to play,” said Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming.

It is confirmed that Riot Games’ biggest titles, including League of Legends and Valorant, will be joining Xbox Game Pass later this year. The Xbox app is also arriving on Samsung’s 2022 smart TV line-up, while cloud gaming will be launched in more countries.

In January, Microsoft announced the acquisition of video game company Activision Blizzard. The deal, valued at $68.7 billion, makes Microsoft the third largest gaming company behind Tencent and Sony, in terms of revenue. The importance goes well beyond just numbers. Popular game titles including Call of Duty, Diablo, Crash Bandicoot, Candy Crush, World of Warcraft, Farm Heroes and Pet Rescue land in Microsoft’s kitty, further strengthening the Xbox Game Pass.

Last year, Bethesda was brought into the fold for $7.5 billion, a move now reaping rewards. The two companies have unveiled an impressive roadmap for the next twelve months, which will see the addition of Somerville, Halo Infinite Season 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, Starfield, Forza Motorsport, Resident Evil 4 and the 40th anniversary edition of the Flight Simulator, to Xbox Game Pass.

Xbox Game Pass is an all-you-can-game buffet. More than 300 game titles across genres, priced around 349 per month, though the 499 per month Ultimate plan holds the best value. EA Play games, including Mass Effect, FIFA, and F1 are also bundled.

New games: Is Sony leaving something on the table with PlayStation Plus?

There’s a key difference here. Sony will not be adding all new game releases, including from their own stable. Gran Turismo games are a shining example of titles that aren’t available within any PlayStation Plus tier. In contrast, Microsoft adds titles from Xbox Game Studios to Game Pass subscriptions on the release day itself. This will add up as a cost for gamers.

For instance, Gran Turismo 7 Standard Edition costs 4,999, while Gran Turismo 7 Deluxe Edition is priced at 6,899; same goes for Horizon Forbidden West Standard Edition ( 4,999), while the Deluxe Digital Edition is priced at 5,999. These two games aren’t part of the PS Plus list yet. Depending on how this plays out, it’ll layer up as a cost above the PlayStation Plus subscription. Sony may have to reconsider this approach at some point.

This is where Microsoft, and Xbox (as well as PC) gamers, have an advantage. It is important to keep in mind here that games are added regularly and some get removed from the library from time to time. That’s how gaming buffets work.

There are more than 400 games to cherry pick from within the PlayStation Plus Deluxe (not so much with PlayStation Plus Essential because of how it is structured). The PS Plus game title collection highlights include God of War, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Last of Us Remastered, Ratchet and Clank, as well as Fallout 4, to name a few.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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