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Sony’s new PlayStation Plus is just another half-ass half-measure

Sony's new PlayStation Plus is just another half-ass half-measure

Image for article titled How is Sony supposed to sell us PS3 nostalgia when it has been cannibalizing the system for years?

Photo: CLEMENS BILAN/DDP/AFP via Getty Images

Every Friday, audiovisual club staff members kick off our weekly open thread for discussion of game plans and recent gaming glories, but of course the real action is in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What are you playing this weekend?

The quiet, confident dominance of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass has been one hell of a thing to behold over the past few years. Where rivals Nintendo and Sony dove into nostalgia and their back catalogs to lure gamers to multiplayer-enabled subscription services, Microsoft has embraced the oddly revolutionary tact of… giving gamers a whole bunch of new games to play, for one simple price $15 per month tag.*

(*And this is where I recognize the complete lack of permanence and ownership that these services confer on subscribers, a situation that pervades just about every aspect of the rent to never own streaming culture All hail physical media, etc., etc.)

Sony finally tried to correct this imbalanced situation earlier this week, announcing an update/Brundlefly-ification of its two existing subscription services, the multiplayer-focused PlayStation Plus and the games subscription service PlayStation Now. (The fact that you too got a few “free” games a month for PlayStation Plus highlights how confusing the differentiation between these two services has been over the years.) Starting later this year, the two services will be merged into one…wwhich will then operate at three different tiers of pricing and content availability, because oops, it’s all confusing.

When we look at what Sony is using to entice people to upgrade to the most expensive plan on offer – the $18 per month PlayStation Plus Premium – it turns out that we find them relying on… the nostalgia and their back catalogue, shock of shocks. Specifically, the new Premium service will differentiate itself from the simple “Extra” ($15 per month) by adding an as yet unnumbered catalog of games from across the company’s library, dating back to PlayStation 1, and including PlayStation 2, the PlayStation 3, and portable PSP. (This is in addition to the “up to 400 more modern games that will be available in both plans, quality decidedly TBD.)

Now, look: I am not immune to the lure of the nostalgic—even nostalgia for the relatively anemic Sony catalogue. I could launch into a whole rant right now about the company’s persistent inability to keep the car combat-focused Twisted Metal franchise a going concern in the modern online era, which is just baffling because it would be so goddamn easy to… Ahem.

Point is: I do get it, and I do feel some anticipation for diving back into the great (and not so big) from the PS1, PS2 and PSP eras. (You’re all going to have some God’s hand in there, right? We’re all clear that you need to get God’s hand in there?) But when it comes to the PlayStation 3 – a generation of consoles that I ignored, I have to admit – I have to ask: what is Sony going to sell people here, that they haven’t already made available over a decade of dedicated self-cannibalization of the console library?

The new PSPlus has already been criticized for its handling of the PS3 library, since, unlike other generations, PS3 titles will only work via demanding cloud streaming over the internet. The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 apparently can’t handle emulation, which has always been Sony’s reason for taking the PS3 catalog and determinedly remastering, then reselling, every major exclusive hit the console has ever had. Which was a perfectly viable business strategy, until they needed to use the PS3 as some kind of digital anglerfish decoy, and ended up with… what? Puppeteer? A mid-range Yakuza Title? Fat whore Princess?

With the notable exception of Solid metal gear 4– a game that has remained trapped in very talkative amber ever since new PS3s stopped shipping in the US.S in 2016 – nearly every other major PS3 title has now been re-released, or (in the case of a game like Infamous) recreated so aggressively in the sequels that this latest concession to backwards compatibility seems completely alien. Hey, kids: who wants to play? The last of us?!

The end result is that Sony’s attempts to “create a Game Pass” remain a Walter White half-measure: nowhere near as exciting as Game Pass itself, while lacking the brutal self-confidence of the set “Fuck your Mother 3player Eliminator Boat Duel and like that” attitude towards his own story. It’s a mess, it’s exactly where the company’s subscription deals were a week ago before they made all the noise.

That being said: get a new twisted metal game, Sony, and maybe we can talk.