Both new PS5 purchasers and veteran PS4 owners know PlayStation maker Sony offers subscription services for gamers. But they may not realize Sony has two completely separate subscription services with very little overlapping content: PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now.
It’s not a Sony-only issue, either. Microsoft has its own slightly confusing menu of subscriptions, which includes Xbox Live Gold and three different flavors of Xbox Game Pass (one of which includes Xbox Live Gold).
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PS Plus is required to play many multiplayer games online, and subscribers get access to new games each month at no extra cost. The lesser-known PS Now is the originator of modern console cloud gaming, although it’s not up to snuff when compared to its newer competitors.
To compete with Xbox Live Gold, Sony created PS Plus in 2010 for the PlayStation 3. The subscription allowed for online multiplayer, discounts in the PSN Store, cloud saves and monthly extra games. Initially, PS Plus free games included PS3 and PSP titles. Eventually, it included Sony’s other devices such as PS Vita, PS4 and most recently, the PS5. Extra games included with the subscription are only available while a PS Plus subscription is active. Stop paying, and you lose access to those games.
There’s an extra bonus for PS5 owners. PS Plus subscribers who have managed to get a PS5 also have access to the PS Plus Collection, a library that includes some of the best PS4 games, such as God of War, Bloodborne and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
PS Plus is still needed for most online multiplayer, but it’s not required for free-to-play online games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty Warzone and Apex Legends. Microsoft recently moved free-to-play games like Fortnite out from behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall as well.
Even if you aren’t interested in online multiplayer, It’s still a subscription that can pay for itself multiple times over with the monthly bonus games. In 2021 alone, PS Plus subscribers received Control, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
Cloud gaming may be hot right now with major players like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna and Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming beta, but it was Sony that first tried to make cloud gaming mainstream with PS Now in 2014. Earlier pioneers like OnLive and Gaikai (the latter eventually purchased by Sony) are now largely forgotten. More than 800 PS2, PS3, PS4 games are available to stream or download on the PS4, PS5 or PC.
But lag is still a factor, like with other cloud gaming services. Game resolution has been recently updated from 720 to 1080 for some games, but that falls behind the 4K offered by Stadia. There’s also a lack of newer titles in its library. Even recent titles published by Sony such as The Last of Us Part II and Returnal aren’t on the service, nor is there any indication that they will be added. Those games that are added sometimes don’t stay in the library for that long, with some available on PS Now for as little as three months. On the plus side, many of the PS4 games on the service can be downloaded rather than streamed, and there’s a PC client for cloud gaming on computers as well.
It’s interesting to see just how little Sony is promoting the service, especially in comparison to Microsoft’s push for Xbox Game Pass. Over the years, the company has seemed less interested in PS Now and while putting minimal effort into it.
Should I get PS Plus or PS Now?
The library of newer games alone makes up for the price of a PS Plus subscription, especially if you pay annually. It’s also needed to access online multiplayer in many games and it has the convenience of cloud saves for switching between different physical consoles.
PS Now, on the other hand, is a little harder to justify. While the service does have more than 800 games, many are not new or not that great. That could be one of the reasons why there were only 2.2 million subscribers as of April 2020, compared to more than 40 million PS Plus subscribers. It might be worth trying out for a month or two in order to have access to a large number of games you haven’t played, but it’s not something you’ll want to keep subscribing to for more than a couple of months.
The obvious answer would seem to be combining these two services into a single subscription, but when we asked Sony about the possibility earlier this year, the company said it had nothing to announce on the subject.