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PlayStation Plus Doesn't Need 'Day One' Exclusives

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A good catalog of games has made up for missing exclusives, so far. 

August 1, 2022

By now, we’ve had plenty of time to get acquainted with the latest revamp of Sony’s PlayStation Plus. The new-and-improved service was almost certainly a response to the growing power of Xbox Game Pass, though Sony’s response has been an entirely different value proposition. On the face of things, it doesn’t look quite as tantalising as Microsoft’s offering, but that could work in its favor.

The principal point of divergence is around “day one exclusives,” which PlayStation has preferred to distance themselves from, probably due to the fact that it’s financially unfeasible for them. Meanwhile, Microsoft will continue to flaunt it and with their ever-increasing number of first- and third-party games, it is already more than a bargain deal. Despite all that, PlayStation Plus has tremendous value on offer, and not featuring Day One exclusives isn’t as big a deal as it may seem.

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The highest tier of Playstation Plus, PS Plus Premium, is priced $17.99 monthly and $119.99 a year. In contrast, Game Pass Ultimate is $14.99 a month, and with no yearly package, you end up spending $179.88 a year, which is relatively expensive. The lower-tier Game Pass is only $10 a month, but at that point you’re missing out on cloud gaming and online multiplayer, which is included in PS Plus Premium. The choice to opt out of multiplayer and select a bundle with only games is nice, but if you want everything, PlayStation is providing it at a much lower annual cost. Both the services have around 400 games, with PlayStation providing an additional 340 classic games.

Regardless of how these services fare against each other, what matters most is how valuable they are on their own. So far, the only thing missing from PlayStation’s service is their very first-party games being made available on the day they release. The reason for that is sustainability, as Jim Ryan, President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, himself suggested in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz

“[In terms of] putting our own games into this service, or any of our services, upon their release… as you well know, this is not a road that we’ve gone down in the past” Jim said. “The level of investment that we need to make in our studios would not be possible, and we think the knock-on effect on the quality of the games that we make would not be something that gamers want”

Games cost money to produce; it’s basic economics, and when you make games, you’ll need a revenue stream. Most first-party games from PlayStation are single-player games that have no added monetization. Sony is already trying to correct that this generation. When they acquired Bungie, the makers of Destiny, the company suggested that they would be collaborating for live-service expertise, or basically creating games that have multiple revenue streams. These kinds of games – service games – could be the ones that Sony can financially afford to add Day One in PlayStation Plus. Of course, if the service games prove successful enough, they could open the door for Sony to pop their premium single-player games onto Playstation Plus as well.

Microsoft has heavy purse power, as evidenced by the monumental acquisition of Activision Blizzard for a modest sum of $68 billion. They’ve got a good pipeline of service games, and even without it they can afford loading all their single-player games into Game Pass. Microsoft going “all in” isn’t much of surprise, as they’re still playing catch-up with Sony after the last generation, with the former lacking in terms of huge blockbusters until recently. In that pursuit, they have gone the “Netflix of games” route, and if PlayStation gets dragged into that, it may hurt the quality they currently offer.

It’s not too controversial to say that Sony continues to produce some of the industry’s best games that aren’t matched by many, and certainly not by Microsoft. Everybody will benefit if they will match the quality, and it looks like this generation is going to be more closely contested. However, the last thing we should want is for Sony to start finding additional “revenue stream” in their single-player games, or shift their focus entirely to games that have long-term revenue potential while other beloved games get the short end of the stick. 

Sony has already ramped up on live service, aiming to release 12 such games by the end of 2025. The publisher still claims that this is just to diversify their portfolio, and it makes sense considering they’ve lacked major multiplayer projects. But as the industry moves towards subscription models, eventually developers will have to monetize their games more or charge more for subscription. Either way, consumers are likely to bear the burden. 

Most gaming-related subscriptions are inherently expensive because, well, games are expensive to make. Consider other services, like Uplay + which is $14.99 per month and you get access to only Ubisoft games, or EA Play Pro, where you get everything from EA for $99.99 a year; they’re both costly, and don’t offer nearly as much as Microsoft or Sony’s iterations. These are simply the price points that are “sustainable” for third-party publishers. 

If everything gets consolidated onto one service, be it Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Plus, the prices will soar; otherwise, the quality of the games will take a toll. There are always low-cost subscription tiers, like standard EA Play, and they only get games when they are a commercial failure or the development cost has been recovered.

Sony not throwing everything on PlayStation Plus doesn’t just keep their first-party quality high, it also indirectly improves their services. As they’ll have to find other ways to keep the value up, which is what the company is doing by offering a strong list of third-party and older first-party games with the subscription. The currently available games include the likes of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Control, Guardians of the Galaxy, Stray, Red Dead Redemption 2, and exclusives like God of War, Spider-Man, Demons’ Souls, and Bloodborne. It’s a solid line-up.

All the services they provide, from multiplayer to cloud gaming, are included in the highest tier, improving the overall quality of the subscription. There are things, like the classic catalog, that could still use improvement, but you’ll always find some quality. It’s not perfect, but it’s off to a great start.

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