Best answer: Yes and no. It depends on which games you're playing. The general rule of thumb is that you'll need PS Plus to play online multiplayer unless the game is free-to-play.
Which games can I play online without PS Plus?
Multiplayer games on PlayStation are divided into two different types: Premium (or paid) games that you buy and free-to-play games. The former can include titles such as Call of Duty: Vanguard, while the latter includes ongoing games such as Fortnite.
Only free-to-play games can be played online without PlayStation Plus. Thankfully, plenty of the most popular games today, like Genshin Impact, Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, the aforementioned Fortnite, and more, are all free-to-play. You can access these games so long as you have an internet connection; no paid subscription is required!
What happened to PS Now?
Previously, Sony had a gaming subscription service called PlayStation Now, which provided access to a rotating library of PS4 games that could also be streamed. Games in PlayStation Now could be played online without an active PlayStation Plus membership. At the time, you could think of this as an extra perk of a PS Now subscription. However, if you wanted to transfer your PS Now game saves from console over to PC for whatever reason, you needed a PS Plus membership to do so.
All of that is in the past, however, and it's important to keep in mind that PlayStation Now is no longer around. The service was integrated into a revamped PlayStation Plus that rolled out starting in June 2022. When this happened, PlayStation Now was no more, and your only option for playing paid multiplayer games is now to subscribe to PlayStation Plus.
Here are the three tiers of the new PlayStation Plus membership:
- PlayStation Plus Essential - $10 per month, the same as PlayStation Plus right now.
- PlayStation Plus Extra - $15 per month, adds library of PS4 and PS5 games.
- PlayStation Plus Premium - $18 per month, adds former PlayStation Now streaming, game trials, and select PS1, PS2, and PSP games.
Anyone with an existing PlayStation Now subscription was automatically rolled over into the highest tier of the new PlayStation Plus automatically — consult our PlayStation Plus conversion guide for details— so don't worry; you won't lose access to your multiplayer games. If you don't want to pay the new prices, you'll have to cancel your subscription.
The list of games in PlayStation Plus Premium is huge, and PlayStation is rotating in new titles every month, so there's always something new for subscribers to check out.
When will PS Plus stop becoming a requirement for online games?
Whether Sony will drop PlayStation Plus as a requirement for online play is unknown. The service has grown well beyond online and multiplayer connectivity in recent years. However, it's still a large revenue earner and is used as a way to subsidize the PlayStation Network.
Given the amount of revenue it pulls in unless there are drastic changes sometime in the future, we wouldn't expect PS Plus to go away anytime soon regarding online gameplay. This is especially true considering how PlayStation Plus was revamped into multiple tiers, with online pay as the "base" tier.
Is Xbox the same way?
Until recently, players needed Xbox Live Gold (the equivalent of PS Plus) to play all online multiplayer on Xbox, regardless of whether the game was free-to-play. This has changed, and Microsoft no longer requires an Xbox Live Gold subscription to play free-to-play games online, making it more in line with what Sony offers. You do still need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play most other multiplayer games.
What if I buy PS Plus and cancel my subscription?
You can only play online multiplayer in games that require it so long as your membership is active. Once you cancel your subscription, you will no longer be able to access online multiplayer (except in free-to-play titles).
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