Every month, from mid-2010 until the beginning of 2019, the PS3 had anywhere between two-to-four free games provided to players for “free.” Thanks to PlayStation Plus, prior to it being a required service to play games online, subscribers would receive a range of “free-to-own” titles available for a limited time each month. While now this is common practice between PlayStation and Xbox’s monthly subscriptions, back then it was a novel idea of giving certain titles more exposure to players. However, all good things come to an end as consoles are sunset for the shiny new hardware, and eventually that’s going to happen to the PS4, just like with the PS3 a few years ago.
While that day certainly isn’t coming any time soon, eventually, PlayStation Plus will stop offering free PS4 games monthly and focus strictly on the PS5. Much like with the PS3 console’s end-of-life, PS Plus offerings will likely extend beyond the console’s lifespan, especially with backwards compatibility on PS5. There’s quite a few reasons why PS4 games are going to stick around on PS Plus’ monthly offering for a long time, longer than the PS3 games before it. Even as more PS5 consoles become available and cross-gen releases start to fade into PS5-only games, monthly PS4 games on PS Plus will be offered for at least five more years on the service.
The most obvious reason is that, unlike the PS4 and PS3, PS5 consoles are fully backwards compatible with PS4 games. Besides the dozen or so outliers that aren’t compatible, basically every PS4 game can be played on PS5 natively, and in some cases with better graphical performance. That’s especially important for PlayStation Plus, especially in the wake of production ceasing on all but one PS4 model in Japan. Sony will undoubtedly be ramping up production on the PS5 now that the holidays are over, but that doesn’t mean PS4 games won’t still be showing up on PS Plus every month. If anything, bigger and better PS4 games could be more common now.
By comparison, the PS3 continually received monthly PS Plus offerings long after the console exited production. PS3 consoles were officially discontinued in Japan in the Spring of 2017, after around 80 million total consoles had shipped, but PS Plus continued to receive more PS3 games for two years after that. PS Plus continued to offer new PS3 games every month up until February of 2019, when Divekick and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots were the last PS Plus free games for PS3. For almost two full years, the PS3 continued to receive monthly games, despite it being impossible to buy the console new. PS4 will almost certainly receive the same treatment.
Similarly, Sony recently axed production for all PS4 models save for the PS4 Slim 500 GB model in Japan. These changes were implemented by Sony to make way for additional PS5 manufacturing in 2021, so the PS4 is certainly on its way out sooner than expected. However, in terms of PS Plus, a similar situation to PS3 is going to be even more likely with PS5 now. Again, thanks to backwards compatibility, PS4 games will be fully playable on PS5. PS4 games will likely still be making their way to PS Plus’ free games for a while. Not to mention there are still over 110 million PS4 consoles still out there in consumer households, so Sony won’t abandon that playerbase yet.
Also something that isn’t necessarily overlooked, but is often talked about, are the sheer number of PS4 games that have released on Sony’s last-gen console. There’s easily been over 4000 games released for the console between 2013 and 2020, not even counting any cross-gen or new releases coming to the console in 2021. As far as PS Plus and Sony is concerned, hypothetically speaking, there’s a huge library of PS4 games that PS Plus can pull from for the next five or six years at least. Even then, that’s still a fraction of the total PS4 games released on the console, and undoubtedly PS5 will get the cream of the PS4’s crop over time.
If a prediction was to be made, more than likely, PS4 support on PS Plus is going to extend as far as 2026. If PS Plus went over that by a year or so, that wouldn’t be surprising either. Again, even if PS4 console production has long since ended by then, it’s a conservative number when compared to the PS3’s support by PS Plus. PS3 support on PS Plus still lasted two years after the console itself had wrapped up production. PS5 has near-full backwards compatibility with PS4, so despite last-gen consoles no longer selling brand new, the PS5 will presumably be widely available to the point where backwards compatibility makes these PS4 games playable regardless.
That’s assuming that manufacturing and sales of the PS5 aren’t still hampered by the pandemic or the severe bots/scalping problem PS5 is still dealing with today. Considering Japan is already willing to discontinue multiple PS4 models to make up for the lack of PS5 consoles, it’s clear Sony is full-steam-ahead on next-gen. That being said, it’s clear PS Plus is going to keep serving up PS4 classics for years after the console’s end.