PlayStation Plus has been Sony’s online gaming presence for years, yet somehow still maintains an air of mystery to what it actually offers.
Let me start off by making clear what PlayStation Plus isn’t. It’s not a streaming platform, like Xbox Game Pass. You won’t have games you can play by just streaming them to your console. Nor is it a cross-platform service designed to work on more than just Sony’s consoles. While rumours abound that Sony is preparing a Netflix-style streaming service of some kind, it’s unclear what it will be. Or even if Plus will even be part of it.
If you are looking for a way to stream PlayStation games, you may want to give PS Now a chance. It’s a separate service with its own subscription fee, so Plus won’t cover it.
Currently, it only works with the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. You can still access it, to some degree, on older hardware, like the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, but without the perks. While there is a PlayStation app for mobile devices, including a website, you won’t be able to play any games on those platforms. They’re more to complement the existing offering on the consoles.
If you’re signing up for the first time, Sony will offer a 14-day trial, but not without at least some commitment up front. You need to sign up with a credit card or PayPal account, and once those first 14 days are up, you will be charged for the next month.
You have a number of ways with which to jump onboard. You can sign up for one month at $11.99, but the better value is going for longer increments. For instance, a three-month subscription is $29.99, whereas the best savings is the 12-month deal at $69.99. Break that down over a year, and it comes out to under $7/month after taxes.
It’s also the kind of service that’s easy to gift to someone else. Subscription cards with codes for the aforementioned increments are widely available at various retail outlets. And if you need a top-up at any time, you can do it that way, too.
Once you’re a member, you may find perks depend on which console you have. PlayStation 5 owners will get one free game to download per month. Sometimes, it’s two, particularly if the game is an upgrade ported over from a PS4 title. Speaking of upgrades, the PS Plus Collection adds another 20 games that aren’t subject to the monthly limits. They’re always there to download and play, and don’t rotate out like the monthly titles do.
PS4 owners get two free games per month. Sony does rotate games in and out, but if you do download a game, it stays in your account while your account is active.
With either console, you have exclusive access to downloadable content (DLC) that may not be available anywhere else. That also includes PS Plus exclusives, like skins and other content packs for certain games. And as a member, you get a discount on any games available to buy and download in the PlayStation Store.
If you’re looking to play with friends or compete against strangers online, you will need PlayStation Plus to do it. The only exceptions are the free-to-play games, like Fortnite, Apex Legends, World of Tanks and Spellbreak.
Online multiplayer includes playing a single-player campaign cooperatively (if the game supports that) or entering tournaments that may be going on. Naturally, you will need an Internet connection to do it all, and the faster, the better, generally speaking.
Share Play is a neat feature that lets you share a single-player experience with a friend by letting them take over, even if they don’t own the game. It’s just like the old days when you only had one controller and you took turns getting through a game.
The 100GB of cloud storage is especially useful for storing your saved data. That means you can play a game at home, save progress to the cloud, and then pick it up again on another console when you sign in there.
If you tend to play often or relish the idea of revisiting certain games, the value may very well be worth it off the bat. Take into account how much you save on games in the PS Store, and the savings could essentially pay for the Plus subscription as well. Unlike a streaming service, the content you download stays with you so long as you’re a paying customer.
But like any other service you pay for, it depends how much you engage with it. It doesn’t matter if you routinely play online, or are a stickler for story-driven campaigns offline. How much content you wade through will probably tell you what you truly get out of it.
With the PS5 still very much in its infancy, growth does look to be around the corner. It’s just unfortunate Sony doesn’t simply merge PS Plus and PS Now together to make it less confusing. I will say, though, there is some convenience here if you prefer not to have physical copies of games.
Which leads me to the one cost you may have to take into account — storage. Games are huge in size, and the PS4, in particular may not have the space you need. If you plan to subscribe, budget in an external hard drive because you may need it to store all those games you want. It’s nice that you can save games in the cloud, but the games themselves will need ample room to stay local.