PS Plus year one review — how good is Sony's subscription restructure?

In 2022, Sony split PS Plus subscriptions into three tiers: Essential, Extra, and Premium. Let's assess the service in our PS Plus year one review.

PS Plus year one review — how good is Sony's subscription restructure?
Kes Eylers-Stephenson

Kes Eylers-Stephenson

Published

Here we are at the end of one year of the new version of PS Plus. We've spent a full year exploring all three tiers — Essential, Extra, and Premium — as well as writing up a PlayStation Plus guide to help us along. All year long we've been keeping tabs of the best PS Plus games, but in our PS Plus year one review we have to ask — how good is Sony's new-look subscription service?

PS Plus tiers in review

We figured we'd take a staggered approach to this review. We'll start by assessing how each of the three tiers has stacked up over the last year, giving each a chance to shine. PS Plus Essential, the cheapest and most basic, gives you access to three monthly games and cloud saves. The mid-priced PS Plus Extra tier gives you access to the Games Catalog of PS5 and PS4 games. Then finally, there's the most expensive tier, PS Plus Premium, which gives you access to the Classics Catalog of PS1, PS2, PSP, and PS3 games as well as PS Plus Trials. Now, let's get into the nitty gritty of each.

PlayStation plus tiersPlayStation Plus guide — what a wonder!

PS Plus Essential

This base tier has barely changed from the original PS Plus formula. If you want to play games online or access three monthly games for PS5 and PS4 that you can keep in your library for as long as you have an active PS Plus subscription, then this is the one for you. Other nifty features like cloud saving ensure that you won't ever lose access to your saves and can switch seamlessly between consoles. Add in smaller things, like special content packs for games like Call of Duty or Fortnite and exclusive PS Plus sales through the year, and PS Plus Essential remains, well, essential for most players.

Over the last year, there has been very little that has changed with this offering. It's as good as it has ever been. Those small things like online access and cloud saves are basically required for a majority of players looking to play the biggest multiplayer games of the year and for those single-player gamers unwilling to put their hard-earned progress in the longest games at risk. I'd argue both things are basically a required utility of being a console gamer at this point.
Across the 'Monthly Games'-style of offerings that most rival services give out, I'd argue that PlayStation has offered the best games. Let's be real, while certain months may disappoint, it has offered supreme quality in AAA offerings like Mass Effect Legendary Edition, Call of Duty Balck Ops Cold War, Yakuza Like A Dragon, Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order, Sackboy A Big Adventure, NBA 2K23, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater in the last year. Even if you don't like all of them, most players will surely have claimed one or two here that they'd happily say was worth the $60 yearly fee.

For even more divisive games, I'd proffer that getting the chance to check out games you aren't sure are worth the price of admission is worth an Essential subscription. Take Battlefield 2042 as an example. Unless you are a hardy fan, the negative press is going to keep you away. Access through PS Plus? Why not give it a go? Add in all the indies we're sure plenty of players get to try out like Tails of Iron, Descenders, or Toem, and there is plenty of variety, too.
That being said, if you are an avid gamer, mileage will vary with the Monthly Games. Sometimes you can go two months without something that you'd really want to play or go through phrases of sports games, indies, and live-service titles you might not be keen on. Overall, though, Sony has ensured its basic subscription tier offers exceptional value for most. Even if you have to pay for an online connection, Sony works to make it worth your while.

ProsCons
+ Overall, a great and diverse lineup of Monthly Games- Monthly Games lineup mileage will vary from player to player
+ Value proposition is very strong
+ Cloud Saves and Online Multiplayer are fantastic utilities
Overall Score 9/10

PS Plus Extra

PS Plus Extra is analogous to Microsoft's popular streaming service, Xbox Game Pass. It features a Game Catalog of PS5 and PS4 games and additional Ubisoft Classics that is around 400 games strong, give or take the games added and removed once a month. Sony adds a selection of games ranging from the cream of the crop, like Horizon Forbidden West, to smaller indies like Inscryption, and everything in between. That means across the portfolio, most players will be able to find PlayStation Plus Extra games that they'd enjoy.

For new PS5 owners who haven't played much of the incredible line-up of games since the PS4 came out in 2013, the Game Catalog is well worth the $100-a-year price of admission. If a new game is worth $70, then the value of this lineup is worth well more than one new AAA game and a few indies or discounted games you'd purchase in a year. With games like Returnal, Horizon Forbidden West, Spider-Man Miles Morales, and Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, it's basically easy access to most of the best PS5 games list.
If you are a more experienced gamer, you might find yourself a touch more particular about the value of PS Plus Extra. I'd say, though, even if you've played those massive AAA games listed above, it's still a magnificent catalog. While Sony has been clear that it won't do day-one PS5 exclusives on PS Plus like Xbox Game Pass, it still has managed to offer an array of wonderful day-one games instead. First came cat-platformer Stray, then New Candelonian adventure Tchia, then tough puzzler Humanity. The bar was raised high for quality back when Sean wrote his Stray review, and it's stayed there ever since.

The major drawback remains the actual PS Store's PS Plus page. If you are looking to discover anything, it's nigh on useless. Lee wrote about Sony's lacking approach to promotion PS Plus indie games, showcasing that the PS Plus section is just rubbish at enticing people into trying something experimental.
And don't even start us on the PlayStation Plus leaving games. The way Sony handles it is just horrible, with the tabs tucked away where no one will ever find them, missing leaving dates, and a lack of any real communication through that interface. The content on PS Plus Extra itself is truly wonderful and offers great value for most players — it just has a major drawback when it comes to accessibility on the PS Plus storefront.

ProsCons
+ Game Catalog of PS5 and PS4 games is truly quality and diverse- The user interface for finding PS Plus Extra games is poor
+ Value proposition is absurd- Discoverability and leaving games communication is shockingly bad
+ Day one games like Stray have been super diverse
Overall Score 8/10

PS Plus Premium

PS Plus Premium, despite being the most expensive tier at $120 a year, has become the most popular tier of Sony's subscription service. This surprised Sony and, given the lesser quality of this tier compared to PS Plus Essential and Extra, it surprises us too. Included is the Classics Catalog of PS1, PS2, and PSP games, with PS3 game streaming in applicable regions and time-limited trials of select full games. However, with limited and varied content additions, we'd argue that this tier is struggling to maintain the value proposition the other two tiers manage.

At the moment, as you can find in our PS Plus PS1 and PSP trophy support guide, the lineup of games from those heady days is limited after a year of slow retro drip-feeding. There are classics in there, no doubt: The Legend of Dragoon, Syphon Filter, Twisted Metal, Wild Arms, Ape Escape, and Ridge Racer 2 to name a few. Little oddities like Pursuit Force and Jumping Flash! round out the list of quality games, but it is a remarkably limited selection and only games from PlayStation Studios have had the (incredible) luxury of getting trophies.
The added features like manual save functionality, in-game rewind, and graphical filters are glorious though, and it's great to be able to choose between the American or European versions of PS1 games for something like Ape Escape. Add in trophy support, breathing new life into certain old games, and what actually is in the catalog starts to feel worth it. PS Plus Trials is a reasonably neat idea too, letting you try games before you spend an absolute fortune on them.

On the negative side — stop us if you see a recurring pattern here — communication around what players are getting from month to month has been truly abysmal. There is seemingly no discernable logic behind just how much classic content subscribers are going to get and it fluctuates rather appalling between surprisingly good and fairly poor. Heck, we were also told to expect PS2 games in such a vague way that we have no idea whether Sony thinks the odd PS2 game ported to PS4 counts towards that quota, or if it is genuinely working towards bringing more PS2 games to the service.

Add in even more confusion with the paltry selection of games available on PS Plus Trials and it's become almost farcical to think of the level of blind trust Sony expects from its customers. That leaves us with a small library of classics with some obvious PS1 big-dogs missing and zero emulated PS2 games, but no real communication from Sony to outline what Premium subscribers can expect from month to month.
There's also PS3 game streaming, which is obviously something very hard for Sony to work around thanks to the PS3's notoriously difficult CELL architecture. However, there is no doubt that Sony's streaming infrastructure just isn't sufficient. While Microsoft is out there upgrading Xbox 360 games with higher frame rates and 4K to play natively on Xbox Series X|S, it's almost a joke that for most (not all) subscribers, PS3 streaming from PS5 is utterly unreliable.

For some, it is fine — for most, it's been mixed at best. Native PS3 game emulation just feels like a huge missing piece of the PS Plus Premium puzzle. To me, it just seems like Premium has the most unique drawbacks of any of the tiers while suffering from the same issues of poor communication and having a terrible hub page. Looking at that $20 upgrade from Extra to Premium, it doesn't seem like a terrible idea to just experiment with some Classics with a month-long upgrade whenever something comes your way, then default to Extra any month there isn't. It's not a bad service all-in-all, it's just infuriatingly held back by small issues all the time.

ProsCons
+ Classic Catalog games present are good with awesome trophy, save, and rewind functionality- Classic Catalog is clearly missing massive PS1 and PSP games and has zero emulated PS2 games so far
+ PS Plus Trials offers a fun way to test games- PS Plus Trials selection is limited and poorly represented in the Storefront
- Communication on what PS Plus Premium or what players should expect remains poor a year in
- PS3 streaming isn't a great solution and native support is needed
Overall Score 5/10

The future of PS Plus

PS Plus year in reviewPS Plus year in review

So, we've looked at every tier of PS Plus and assessed its quality by offering criticism and praise alike. With a year under its belt, we feel like we have a good idea of what Sony needs to improve and keep doing over the next year. If this service is supposed to rival Xbox Game Pass' market-defining video game subscription, what should Sony look at for year two? We have three things.

Maintain the quality of games

Clearly, 400 games is more than enough for any one player — adding more games just isn't the answer to improving the service. Instead, we think the catalog needs to put quality first, something Sony has clearly also decided should be the case. Targeting day-one games that are as diverse and interesting as Stray and Tchia is a great idea, as is slowly feeding first-party exclusives with updates well after release. Making sure old 'classic' games keep arriving will be pivotal, as will keeping a broad variety of indie games that tickle different pickles.

PS Plus year in reviewPS Plus year in review

Communication and the PS Plus storefront on PS5

Outside of its PS Plus Essential tier, Sony really has struggled to maintain direct and open lines of communication so players know what to expect out of their subscription. We've elaborated more in our article about PS Plus' consistency, but there seemingly is very little rhythm, particularly with PS Plus Premium. Much of this would be solved with an overhaul of the PS Plus storefront to help with discoverability and knowing what games are coming and going without having to spend time hunting down great articles by TrueTrophies to help you (that being said, please keep doing that).

PS Plus Premium needs to be better outlined

A concrete guide on how PS Plus Premium's Classic Catalog will develop feels like a vital part of getting that tier functioning. Just tell us what your plans are for year two, Sony! Can we expect big PS1 games, PS3 emulation, or a guaranteed three games a month minimum? Just let people know what they are investing their money in so they can make an educated choice about what tier is right for them.

PS Plus year one review — conclusion

PS Plus year one reviewPS Plus year one review

Let's summarise! PS Plus Essential is pretty much nigh on perfect, offering great value for a variety of essential utilities. It could really only be improved if we could perhaps dispense with the Monthly Games filler we tend to see round-out the package. PS Plus Extra is great. It continues offering fantastic PS5 and PS4 games in its Game Catalog, particularly for new players. However, it has a massive discoverability issue because the PS Plus storefront isn't up to standard. Then we have PS Plus Premium which has had a poor first year. While it does offer good support for the cool PS1 and PSP games it emulates (including trophy support), the tier suffers from terrible communication issues and a lack of PS3 games running natively.

All in all, I'd say PS Plus in year one of its revamp has been a marked success for a first step, with room for improvement at the upper tiers. Sony needs to make strides in communication and overhaul the PS Plus hub page on PS5 if it wants to improve in year two. However, it is a worthy rival to Xbox Game Pass and manages to make its seeming weaknesses, like a lack of day one exclusivity, into strengths by offering up interesting alternatives every month. Sony's handling of PS Plus in year one has impressed and we'd heartily recommend Essential and Extra to most players, with Premium requiring significant work.

ProsCons
+ PS Plus Essential remains great value with useful utility and a good selection of monthly games- PS Plus Premium's struggles make it hard to recommend
+ PS Plus Extra has a great pile of PS5 and PS4 games from AAA to indies with superb day-one games- The PS Plus hub isn't very good
+ Sony has a great release cadence for Essential and Extra
Overall Score 7/10
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Editor Kes is our resident expert in PlayStation and other gaming news. He writes about PS5 exclusives like The Last of Us and Horizon, PS Plus news, and his favorite games — The Witcher, Assassin’s Creed, and God of War — before an evening swim.
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