Sony’s PlayStation Plus Deluxe is good value, but my issues with subscription services remain

I'm up to over $100/month just for entertainment subscription services...

8 mins read

You all know the “we should improve society” meme, right? The cartoon about a guy that is suffering from backbreaking work, starvation, and other ailments suggesting that we should do something to improve society, and the other guy leaping out of a well to say “yet you participate in society!” as though that is a  rational and intelligent counter to the idea that society should be improved. I feel like that first guy, in that I participate in subscription services. I have Netflix, Apple Music and Apple Arcade, Nintendo’s Online Service, and now PlayStation Plus Deluxe. I hate them, but I have little choice but to use them.

I can also assure you that I get a lot of people like the dweeb in the well yelling “curious” at me because I’m critical of subscription services.

I’m not going to prosecute the case here again, though. I’ve written plenty of arguments against subscription services, and I’m well aware that my more regular readers have had enough of that and they’re telling me to get off my soapbox on the matter (shout out to you all – you know who you are!). You can read some of those pieces here, here and here.

For this article, I’m simply going to talk about PlayStation Plus Deluxe, which launched last week and I’ve been playing around with it over the weekend. For the most part, with all the many caveats that come with subscription services, this is a good deal. However, given the fact that the service has been conceptualised to encompass all of Sony’s long history in video games, I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that it does a spectacularly poor job of that.

First, though, the good. It’s cheap, for a start. It runs at more or less the cost of a Netflix subscription at Aus$21.95/month for the highest tier (and if you’re going to invest in this service, you may as well go with the highest tier). Pay for it on an annual basis and, at $154.95, you get a big discount, and that’s a really reasonable rate for a year’s access to a library of games. That’s less than two new games at retail.

Sony helpfully splits the library into two sections on the PlayStation store. There’s the “classics” section, where you’ll find the PSP, as well as PlayStation 1 and 2 titles (more on the PS3 soon). There are also some PlayStation 4 titles that I can’t quite figure out… perhaps they’re the ones that don’t have a PS5 version. I’ve yet to fully sit down and go through them game by game to determine the categorisation Sony has used there. The other section is for the rest of the PlayStation 4 library, as well as the PlayStation 5.

Most of the PlayStation 1, 2 and PSP titles are Sony’s own titles, as well as some of the Ps2 titles that were already available on the PS5 – Dark Cloud and Wild Arms III and the like. It’s worth noting that with some of them, the emulation is downright broken. Okage, tragically, would have been a reason to subscribe in itself, but it barely works thanks to all kinds of weird screen tears and visual glitches. Most do, however. Meanwhile, I’m quite impressed with the library of modern titles that Sony has cobbled together. There are a bunch of B-tier and 6/10 or 7/10-quality games there that most of us missed on release, but now have the lowest barrier of entry there is: “no additional cost.” So that’s good too. In fact, if you take the service at face value and didn’t know what the library currently excludes, then you’d have to say Sony’s launched well with Deluxe. You’re covered across genres and from retro, through to indie and blockbuster. And, remember, you really only need to play a half dozen games for that annual subscription cost to make sense.

The problem is that the rest of the combined library across PlayStation devices hasn’t just disappeared. In Australia, there are no PlayStation 3 games at all because, though they’re available overseas via streaming, Sony apparently decided that our Internet wouldn’t be up to it and so the subscription just doesn’t have those games on it. That might be a fair call on Sony’s part regarding our Internet infrastructure, but it absolutely sucks to know that elsewhere in the world people have the chance to re-discover Tokyo Jungle, Rain and Puppeteer, and I don’t. Those are the Sony games that I actually want to play again.

The PlayStation 1 and 2 library is woefully anemic, and would barely qualify as a teaser or “demo disc” for what those respective consoles historically offered players. There’s also only one PSP game on there in total. The PS4 and PS5 libraries might be somewhat superior, but I would bet that if you polled a bunch of people to find out what their top 10 Ps4 and Ps5 games were, in very (very) few cases would all ten of their favourite games be in these libraries.

Worse, we already know that there will be games that come out of the library. Unlike the previous PlayStation Plus, once that happens you won’t be able to play them again. You can assume that, like with Xbox Game Pass, new games will be added every month, but of course, there is also the potential that the service stagnates.

Ultimately, what’s going to determine the success of PlayStation Plus Deluxe is whether the PS5 heads in the same direction as the Xbox consoles. If retail and digital sales collapse (as they have on Xbox) so developers and publishers have little choice but to offer their products to the subscription altar, then PlayStation Plus Deluxe is going to do just fine. We shouldn’t want for that to happen, but that will be the outcome. Whatever happens in the future, however, Sony has priced the subscription right and ensured that it has a reasonable enough launch lineup so that just about everyone can pony up the $22 for a month, find a couple of interesting things to play, and from that come to the conclusion that Deluxe is “better value” than just buying the games outright.

Or, to go back to the meme, I can’t see any way I can unsubscribe from here. I am, yet again, participating in society.


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Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

  • I don’t own a PS4 so I never got the service, but hearing about the state of Ps1 and PS2 games… It’s a shame. It’s an embarrassment for Sony.

    I recently played Kartia for the Ps1 because I heard it was good and it was a vague memory from my childhood. What a beautiful game. It’s a whole game done with the character concept artist for the Final Fantasy series. That was a lot of people’s dream game back in the day! And it has been buried and forgotten by the game industry. It’s a shame people will not find it and will forget it.

    • There is just such a wealth of incredible art that came out of the PS1 and PS2 and we’re never going to see any of it on services like this because the commercials just don’t line up. It’s beyond tragic 🙁

      • I think it’s a bit early to say that. They don’t even have many popular games yet, so I think those could still come. Heck, they don’t even have Twisted Metal 2 yet, which I’ll get for free since I bought it on PS3.
        On a side note, I appreciate that they still sell most of the old games on their own.

        • There is a mess of problems for a lot of the old greats on PlayStation. Licensing is an issue, as is developers having gone out of business. It can actually cost a lot to preserve games and often there’s marginal value in doing so.

          The SNES and NES, which have three generations’ worth of Virtual Consoles at this point, are still overwhelmingly “lost” due to licensing. Nintendo has even had to pull its brilliant Game Boy Tetris, and will never be able to re-release Sim City SNES, and that’s *Nintendo*. So yeah, it’s safe to say we’ll never see the overwhelming bulk of PS1/PS2 games, sadly.

  • Every time a company comes out with a subscription service like this rather than allowing me the opportunity to actually buy classic games, I feel less and less guilty about emulation. And I’m certain you’re the same. 🙂

    Did you know the entire PS1 library is approximately 500GB? Just… just saying.

    • “Did you know the entire PS1 library is approximately 500GB? Just… just saying.”

      I actually did not! I know the Game Boy’s entire library is about 200MB, but yeah, that makes sense.

      Now, what’s the PS2 library <_<

  • It’s a decent deal for me since I’m mainly a Switch gamer and haven’t played many of the Sony 1st party games. Some aspects are bizarre though. As an example, Nobunaga’s Ambition Sphere of Influence is available as a PS3 streaming option instead of the better PS4 version.

    The classics lineup at launch is the weakest aspect of the service by far in my opinion.

  • Why do you have to participate?
    I’m less against this than gamepass because gamepass push on new games is just destructive in the long term I think (while this is older games) , and I’m certainly tempted to get Extra since it has Stray and I can get it for an extra a $10 past that, but I’m still skeptical about supporting it.
    I also hate the rotating game library concept. Regular plus (essential now) still has persistent games and was a good idea. A balance.
    Even still though, I think I may just get Stray on its own for $30. I’m just not sure I want anything to do with these kind of gaming subscription services. (Though I agree with ones like Apple Music and Funimation)

    • Like them or not (in my case, deeply dislike them), subscription services are the future and much like Netflix, it’s going to become enormously cumbersome to access a lot of art if you’re not a subscriber. For now it’s not too bad, but we will see more and more games available only through subscription, and that’s why I feel the pressure to be a subscriber.

      • But games (outside of like two PS1 games) aren’t only available by a subscription. None are yet. (PS3 too, but the reason those are streamed is another can of worms entirely)
        It is literally no more cumbersome than 10 years ago (maybe less even) to access a game through purchasing it normally.
        And I’m not convincing gaming needs to go that route either.
        Trying to watch a TV series was very cumbersome before Netflix, it cost an insane amount to buy or you had to pray for a marathon or consistent return you caught at the start. (Let’s not even start on how cumbersome anime was) Music was reliant on radio as well, which was replaced by subscriptions, but also is just such a different medium to consume.
        Games go on sale digitally and games go down in price over time physically, meaning there are healthy and reasonable economics and access to them. These subscriptions don’t solve a inherently cumbersome issue.
        Most movies, TV, and music can also still be bought physically too.
        Could there be a future where what you say happens, sure. But to buy the subscriptions before any of that pressure forms, not even one new game is cumbersome to get normally (no more than two years ago), just seems unreasonable and irrationally fearful. You can 180 not having a subscription easily if anything changes.

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