Standing firm on its decision not to include first-party PS5 games as part of its PS Plus subscription, Sony has gone further saying it would "deteriorate" the quality of its games. While Sony’s chief financial officer Hiroki Totoki didn't call out Microsoft by name, it does seem a little shade was being thrown.
The biggest reason to sign up for Xbox Game Pass is Microsoft’s commitment to release all of its first-party games on the subscription service on day one. Sure, you get access to hundreds of other games, too, but knowing you’ll get Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and Fable 4 at launch for no extra cost is a real draw. Sony is under pressure to offer a similar perk with its new look PS Plus, but it’s come out strongly against it, saying it would worsen its games.
“If we distribute [first-party games] on the subscription services, we may need to shrink the investment needed for [quality products],” Sony’s CFO Hiroki Totoki said on a recent financial call (opens in new tab) (transcribed by @Genki_JPN (opens in new tab)). “That will deteriorate the first-party title quality that is our concern.
“Our current thinking is to have development costs and appropriate R&D investment for quality products, which will improve the platform and improve business in the long run.”
Too little, too late?
In March, Sony revealed its plans to relaunch PS Plus as a multi-tier service that combines its current offering with its game streaming service, PS Now, and access to a much larger catalog of games. The update was long in demand, with Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass offering access to first-party titles and a huge library of third-party games. It costs more, but you get more tangible value from your monthly fee.
PS Plus will be available in three tiers from June: Playstation Plus Essential, Playstation Plus Extra, and Playstation Plus Premium. Essential gives you access to the same service as was on offer before – online multiplayer, discounts in the Playstation Store, and two PS Plus free games a month. Extra opens up a library of 400 PS4 and PS5 games, and Premium gets you all of that, and also access to a library of retro games.
In these early years of PS5 and Xbox Series X, the real strength of Sony's console has been its library of first-party titles. Gran Turismo 7, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Horizon Forbidden West, and even Astro’s Playroom have all shown off the console in its best light. Whereas Microsoft hasn’t had quite the same run of success – Forza Horizon 5 is an absolute winner, but Halo Infinite launched to mixed reactions, thanks to its piecemeal release.
There is less motivation for Sony to draw people in with a subscription service; people are already buying the consoles for its exclusives, so they’re willing to buy them in addition to the console. With Xbox, it’s more an investment of faith that those valuable exclusives will come – and with the string of acquisitions studio Microsoft has made in the past five years, there’s a lot of reason to believe those games are on the horizon.
The question is, as Microsoft’s new studios start releasing games, will Sony feel the pressure to add its exclusives to PS Plus to compete with Microsoft, or will Microsoft find that it has to follow Sony’s lead and keep first-party games separate from its subscription service?