The Last of Us Part I is one of the most notable PlayStation 5 games to launch this fall. It’s also one of the year’s most controversial titles.
Despite the acclaim associated with The Last of Us series, there is heated debate surrounding the remake’s $70 price tag, which is more than the original release and The Last of Us Remastered cost at release — even though it’s lacking the multiplayer mode that came with both. This situation turned what should be a certified slam dunk for Sony into a divisive release, and Sony could fix it with one key change: making The Last of Us Part I a day-one title on PlayStation Plus Extra or Premium.
This isn’t because The Last of Us Part I isn’t worth $70. In fact, its improved visuals and the vast amount of new accessibility features clearly warrant the price tag in the eyes of some. That said, even defenders of the heightened price can recognize the controversy arising from charging more than ever for a remake of a twice-released game. The Last of Us Part I is in a rough situation, and being a PS Plus game would ease some of those concerns.
Why being on PS Plus would work
As The Last of Us is one of Sony’s most popular modern franchises and has a TV show on the way, it’s understandable why Sony and developer Naughty Dog eagerly want a modernized version of The Last of Us Part I on store shelves at full price. Still, those who’ve already bought the game twice and aren’t impressed by the visual and accessibility overhaul don’t seem as compelled to pick up the game for the third time. Sony would remove this significant roadblock plaguing The Last of Us Part I by putting the game on a subscription service.
There are plenty of examples showing why this would be a wise idea. The Age of Empire series’ Definitive Edition games showed how well remakes work on subscription services. Several years after their original release, many players are still actively engaged with the first three Age of Empire games. While interested players can still purchase the remakes individually, putting those games on Game Pass for PC on day one ensured that the community didn’t have to pay full price for a game they were already playing daily. Instead, they could just get the remake through their subscription and continue.
The Last of Us Part I is in a similar situation, even with the multiplayer content removed. This demonstrates why a subscription service release could lessen some of the negative stigmas around the game. The successful Stray, which was included in PS Plus at launch, shows that day one PlayStation Plus games can still generate plenty of positive buzz. The game’s subscription service availability ensured that the conversation stayed on the game’s cute cats, not the fact that it was a $30 game that only lasted about five hours.
Sony has recognized the power PS Plus can have on embattled games before. Destruction All-Stars was originally a $70 PS5 launch title, but ultimately launched as a PlayStation Plus game that was free to subscribers. Although The Last of Us Part I seems like it’ll be a better game than Destruction All-Stars, a day one game makes even more sense on PlayStation Plus Premium and Extra now than it did on PS Plus in February 2021.
Despite all of those factors, Jim Ryan made it clear that he does not want AAA PlayStation Studios games on PlayStation Plus Premium or Extra on day one during an interview with Games Industry.
“We feel like we are in a good virtuous cycle with the studios where the investment delivers success, which enables yet more investment, which delivers yet more success,” Ryan said. “We like that cycle and we think our gamers like that cycle … We feel if we were to do that with the games that we make at PlayStation Studios, that virtuous cycle will be broken. The level of investment that we need to make in our studios would not be possible, and we think the knock-on effect on the quality of the games that we make would not be something that gamers want.”
His argument makes sense from a business standpoint, but data from Microsoft shows that people play more games (and games they might not have played initially) when they are available on a subscription service. Even if it seems unfair to judge, many people weigh the amount of new, entertaining content a game offers to its price tag. Sony’s can’t truly say whether The Last of Us Part I is worth $70, but it can shift the discussion in its favor with an act of goodwill.
The Last of Us Part I will be released for PS5 on September 2, 2022.