What's The Difference Between PlayStation Plus And PlayStation Now?

Sony's PlayStation platform extends beyond the console itself, encompassing multiple services, including PlayStation Now (PS Now) and PlayStation Plus (PS Plus). Both of these services are optional and, because of the naming structure, can be easy to mix them up. In reality, both are very different from each other, and there's an easy way to quickly tell them apart.

Things will change in June 2022, however, when Sony adopts a new PlayStation Plus subscription model that eliminates PlayStation Now as a separate service. Going forward, some PS Plus subscribers will automatically get access to the cloud-based game streaming platform and all of its games as part of their monthly, quarterly, or yearly Extra or Premium plan. Here's what each service offers and how they'll be combined.

PlayStation Now

Though both PS Plus and PS Now are optional, it's fair to say that PS Now is a bit more optional than its counterpart. Whereas a PS Plus subscription is necessary to access a core game feature (online multiplayer), PS Now is a separate platform that doesn't have anything to do with playing the games you already own.

Instead, PS Now is a game streaming service sort of like Stadia, though limited to the PlayStation console. Paying subscribers are able to access a huge library of PlayStation games, including old favorites released for the PS2 – PS4, and stream them over the internet. As such, PS Now enables immediate gameplay for games you don't actually own, no downloads required.

The downside is that PS Now requires a very reliable and fast internet connection, otherwise, you'll run into issues with game quality (stuttering, buffering, etc.), as well as, potentially, times when you're presented with an error warning the connection isn't fast enough to stream at all. The service isn't always reliable, either. I have, for example, been a subscriber for years, and though the experience has overall been great, there have been times I've had to stop playing due to lag despite having a 200 Mbps connection.

Fortunately, Sony offers a free trial period for those who've never previously signed up, giving all PlayStation console owners the chance to try the service out for themselves and make sure it works well with their internet connection. If you like what you experience, the subscription is priced at $9.99 per month if you pay monthly, $24.99 if you pay for three months at once, and $59.99 if you pay for an entire year upfront.

PlayStation Plus

PlayStation Plus, meanwhile, is arguably a "required" subscription even if it is technically optional. While you don't have to pay for PS Plus, you won't be able to play online multiplayer in most games — and that's particularly problematic considering how many games require online services and revolve mostly or entirely around multiplayer experiences.

Some popular titles like "Fortnite" don't require you to have a PS Plus subscription to play online, but other hits like "Minecraft" do. If you own a PlayStation console but primarily play games that have free online multiplayer or single-player campaigns, you can get away with not signing up.

For everyone else, though, you're going to need to pay for a PS Plus subscription to get the most use out of your console and games. Sony attempts to make this soft requirement a little more bearable by offering free games to PS Plus subscribers every month; these titles are available to the customer as long as they remain a subscriber.

That's not a terrible deal, depending on how often you play a variety of games versus focusing only on a few. Some months (like the January 2022 batch) have lackluster lineups, but other months bring surprises, including well-rated and high-quality titles. Past examples of this include games like "Resident Evil 7 biohazard," "Star Wars: Squadrons," "Hitman 2," "Final Fantasy 7," and others. Not every month is an exciting one, but when the good games do drop, they tend to make up for the subscription cost.

PS Plus is available at the same cost as PS Now: $9.99 per month, but with the 3-month and 12-month upfront payment options for a discount.

PS Plus Premium will combine the two

In a blog post on March 29, 2022, Sony announced plans to overhaul its PlayStation Plus subscription, splitting it up into three different tiers in addition to eliminating PlayStation Now as a separate service. The new version of PS Plus will go live in June, with the exact date varying depending on the region — Sony says it hopes to make the changes live in the U.S. on June 13.

Under this new arrangement, PS Plus will feature three plan tiers: Essential at $9.99 per month, Extra at $14.99 per month, and Premium at $17.99 per month. The Premium plan will be the only one that offers the full cloud-based game streaming library currently known as PS Now. Subscribers can expect access to 700 or so games spanning from the PS1 through PS4 and PSP console generations.

With that said, the PS Plus Extra plan will offer part of the PS Now library to subscribers — Sony says you can expect around 400 streaming titles under this plan, though it'll be limited to the PS4 and PS5 generations. Premium subscribers, meanwhile, will also get cloud streaming access to PlayStation 3 games, as well as PS1, PS2, and PSP games available for both streaming and download. This assumes, however, that you live in a market where PS Now is currently offered.

Existing PS Now customers can expect to automatically revert to the PS Plus Premium plan once the subscription service change goes live in their regions. As with the existing options, Sony will continue to offer discounts in the form of quarterly and yearly subscription alternatives to the monthly payment plan.