Sony's Revamped PlayStation Plus is What Nintendo Switch Online Should Look Like

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Rumors have swirled for some time around Sony's PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus services combining to make something new.

Today, Sony made it official: it's debuting a new offering that combines the streaming platform PlayStation Now with its PlayStation Plus membership to create a new, tiered version of the latter with a new set of unique benefits at different price points. Meet PlayStation Plus Essential, PlayStation Plus Extra, and PlayStation Plus Premium.

Sony's new vision of PlayStation Plus is split into three tiers. The new basic subscription will become PlayStation Plus Essential, which is the same service all current PlayStation Plus users receive now. That means two free downloadable games per month, a smattering of discounts, online multiplayer access, and cloud storage for saved games for $9.99 a month.

PlayStation Plus Extra will grant all of the benefits from the Essential tier, and access to a catalog of up to 400 PS4 and PS5 games, including PlayStation Studios titles and third-party partners. Extra tier games are available for download to play. It's $14.99 a month.

Finally, PlayStation Plus Premium is the best value by far. It grants all the benefits from the premium tiers and access to up 340 additional games, from PlayStation to PS5, including PlayStation, PS2, PSP, and PS3 games. PS3 titles will be streamable, while the other classic titles will be downloadable and streamable using PS4, PS5, and PC platforms. There will also be time-limited game trials in this tier. You get all of this for $17.99 a month.

That means we'll likely see games like PaRappa the Rapper, Metal Gear Solid, Syphon Filter, Final Fantasy VII, or a smattering of other classics up for grabs to play with a subscription. Many of these have been made available via avenues like the PlayStation Classic, so it would make sense to see them here, too.

Sony won't be bringing its heavy-hitter titles to PlayStation Plus tiers on day one like Xbox chooses to, but it is making up for this decision by unlocking years' worth of its older content, which is in many ways priceless to some users.

This new set of tiers is, as many have pointed out, similar to Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass subscription service. It's easy to see it that way, as the offerings are comparable. And in this way, we'll achieve some sort of parity with what both Xbox and PlayStation fans have access to via each console's subscription services, which is great news for players, especially those interested in playing older titles.

But Microsoft and Sony have long taken strides toward helping players access older content in each company's respective catalog while working to offer plenty of streaming options. So it's no surprise that PlayStation's new configuration is such a boon for those looking for retro games to play. Nintendo, on the other hand, seemingly went backward with the Switch's debut, doing away with the Virtual Console service for classic games and opting for Nintendo Switch Online instead.

Nintendo offers many of the same benefits with its service that Microsoft and Sony do, but falters in terms of classic games. Sony will offer the aforementioned selection of streamable and streamable and downloadable retro titles from the original PlayStation onward, all the way up to PS4.

Nintendo does offer a selection of its older games via paid Nintendo Switch Online subscription. These are relegated (right now) to NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, and Sega Genesis titles, however. There are several generations of games that have yet to be added to the library, which rotates games in and out periodically.

Meanwhile, Switch players are still missing complete eras of games (with no additional systems announced just yet) and no option to buy most of the classic titles gamers are looking for either on the Nintendo Switch eShop. In fact, Nintendo has stated that this library will continue to grow on its official FAQ regarding the service, but it has also flat out stated that there are no plans to make the games available outside of the service outside of official game compilations or other special purchase opportunities.

But right now, if you were to want to play, say, the first English release of a game like Animal Crossing, which debuted on the GameCube, you'd have no way of doing so on the Nintendo Switch. You'd have to purchase a GameCube and go to town, or you'd have to emulate it if you owned the actual game itself. This is just an example, of course. But Animal Crossing is hardly the only game you'd have to do this with. Nintendo has never made it easy to access its slate of classic games, while Microsoft and Sony have been working little by little either by way of backward compatibility or access to their game libraries with every new iteration of online services.

The new PlayStation Plus tiers having combined with PlayStation Now were a great move for Sony and a gracious way to thank fans who have been clamoring for backward compatibility over the years. Now, at the very least, there's going to be a library upon which Sony can continue to expand with additional retro titles that make it easy to play the games that helped launch the PlayStation name into the stratosphere.

It's a great time for Nintendo to evaluate what it wants to do to ultimately continue to evolve Nintendo Switch Online as a platform. While it's all well and good to offer retro titles on a cyclic basis, at some point the Big N needs to step up and realize that players can and do want to play the older titles -- not at Nintendo's leisure, but at theirs. The blueprints have been laid for the Big N to follow through.

Here's hoping, at some point, we see a shift toward the classic games it's purposefully hiding in its value, so that fans can play what they want, unfettered, via the Nintendo Switch Online service.

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