Managed to find a PS5 in stock? Or maybe you’re hoping to get one as a gift. Either way, console purchases rarely end at the system itself. You need to buy games, of course, but Sony offers two subscription services you can also add to your shopping cart: PS Now and PS Plus. Let’s see what they do.
In general, they both cost the same ($59.99 per year), offer game libraries as a part of their subscription, and are built to improve the playing experience for PlayStation owners. But why are they different services then? Well, there are some key differences between Plus and Now—one is a borderline necessity for every PlayStation owner while the other is an interesting bonus.
To start with, PS Plus is by far the more popular of these two services. It’s what powers Sony’s online multiplayer network, and it’s required to play any PlayStation game (published by Sony or not) over the internet, with the exception of most free-to-play games. But it offers up so much more than that—it also comes with cloud storage for save files, monthly free games to claim, and a fixed library of games in the PlayStation Plus collection.
The PS+ Collection is largely made up of the PS4’s greatest hits. Games like God of War, Persona 5, and Bloodborne are included alongside 17 other games. For the size of the library, it’s a solid line-up, even if it’s missing some obvious picks like Horizon Zero Dawn. It’s great for PS5 owners who didn’t have a PS4; if you did, though, there’s a decent chance you’ve already played a lot of these games. The monthly games are a long-running feature of PS Plus and offer a random selection of games that can be permanently claimed to your PlayStation account each month. There’s a lot of variety with these titles, so it’s a great value if you’re looking to expand your library.
PS Plus, on the whole, offers a lot while also asking a lot; it costs $59.99 a year, so it’s definitely not a subscription to buy on a whim.
PS Now is a different beast entirely; it’s targeted at both PlayStation and PC gamers, unlike Plus. This is largely a streaming service, similar to the likes of Google Stadia just a few years earlier. It’s certainly not the forefront of modern game streaming, but it’s solid enough and has its advantages.
For example, PS Now is the only way to play PlayStation exclusives like The Last of Us Part II on PC, even if it is through streaming. You can access a lot of games on PS Now—over 800 to be precise—but, unfortunately, they can’t all be winners. PS Now is regularly (and rightfully) criticized for including a lot of filler games, but there’s still plenty of quality stuff in here as well from all generations of PlayStation. Looking for a classic 3D platformer? Both Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper are accounted for. Something more modern and story-based? God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Uncharted are also here.
There’s also a limited selection of PS4 games (around 300) which can be downloaded on PlayStation consoles specifically. This cuts PC players out of the picture but is an excellent alternative to offer for those that don’t want to deal with pitfalls of streaming like latency.
All for $59.99 a year as well, and any online multiplayer games available on PS Now can be played online without PS Plus, so why not just get PS Now then and skip Plus?
Despite both being game subscription services provided by Sony, PS Plus and PS Now fill different needs.
PS Plus is a borderline necessity for a lot of players, walling off online play to all who don’t buy it. The monthly games you can claim and PS Plus Collection are bonuses to sweeten to deal rather than the primary focus. Not an insane value if you’re just looking for a ton of games to play without buying them individually, but non-optional if you want to play online.
On the other hand, PS Now is all about the games, and it has a lot to justify its price. Even if not all the games are winners, enough are to make it worth it (this just means you have to dig more to find them). Streaming can be a downside for many that have weaker internet connections, not to mention it makes fast-paced games extremely difficult to play, but it still has some advantages like not needing to download games.
There’s still a solid number of games that can be downloaded if you’re playing on a PlayStation system, but you won’t be able to access the whole library through that means. Cutting down 800 to 300 games when a lot of them are still filler is a big hit to the value of PS Now if you’re only able to play downloaded games. There’s a reason why you don’t hear many people talking about PS Now as some amazing value: the library’s bloated with a lot of weak games, which makes the advertising feel somewhat misleading and the good games on the service harder to find. Not to mention Sony is reluctant to put any newer games on the service, so everything you can play is at least a couple of years old.
Either way, it’s the closest thing to a game subscription service Sony currently has, so if that’s what you’re after, it’s your only option—for now anyway.
Currently, PlayStation players’ best shot for a gaming subscription service is a rumor. Leaks emerged that Sony was working an Xbox Game Pass competitor that, like Game Pass, would grant access to a large library of quality games you can download and play on your console for a monthly fee. This would also supposedly phase out PS Now, but it’s hard to say anything for certain. But if this does come to fruition, it would be a fantastic option for PlayStation gamers looking for a cheaper way to expand their library—especially if the pricing scheme rivals Microsoft’s offering of Xbox Live Gold (Microsoft’s PS Plus equivalent) and Game Pass for only $14.99 a month.
So then, your options are clear: for online multiplayer and a modest sampling of Sony’s library, go PS Plus. If you really want a game subscription service and don’t mind the streaming pitfalls, PS Now will give you what you want.