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Is it free-to-play online with PlayStation?

The short answer is – it depends on the game. For most popular PS4 and PS5 games, you‘ll need an active PlayStation Plus (PS Plus) subscription for online multiplayer gaming. However, free-to-play games like Fortnite and Apex Legends don‘t require PS Plus to play online.

So if you want to play online multiplayer in big titles like Call of Duty, FIFA, Elden Ring, and more, a PS Plus membership is essential. But you can access online modes for free in certain free-to-play games.

Below I‘ll explain everything in detail about PlayStation Plus, its benefits, costs, and whether it‘s worth it for online gaming.

What is PlayStation Plus and how does it work?

PlayStation Plus (PS Plus) is Sony‘s premium subscription service for PlayStation users. It gives members access to:

  • Online multiplayer gaming
  • 2-4 free games each month
  • Exclusive discounts and sales
  • Cloud storage for game saves
  • Early access to game trials and demos
  • Share benefits across consoles

There are now 3 tiers of PS Plus with different membership prices:

PlayStation Plus Essential

This base tier costs $9.99 per month and includes:

  • Online multiplayer
  • 2 monthly games
  • Exclusive PS Store discounts
  • Cloud storage

Essential has all the core benefits of the original PlayStation Plus membership before the revamp.

PlayStation Plus Extra

For $14.99 monthly, this mid-tier adds:

  • All Essential benefits
  • Game catalog of 400+ PS4 and PS5 game downloads

The downloadable game collection gives you access to popular titles like Spiderman, Red Dead Redemption 2, Ghost of Tsushima, and many more.

PlayStation Plus Premium

The top tier is $17.99 per month and contains:

  • All Extra benefits
  • Game streaming for classic PS1, PS2, PSP and PS3 games
  • Game streaming on PC, PS4, and PS5
  • Time-limited game trials

Premium members can stream a catalog of legacy PlayStation games as well as try new releases for limited periods.

Subscriptions automatically renew each month until canceled. You can save money by purchasing annual memberships up front.

Do you need PlayStation Plus for online multiplayer?

For most paid PS4 and PS5 games, PlayStation Plus is required to play online multiplayer. This includes popular titles like:

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  • Elden Ring
  • FIFA 23
  • Apex Legends
  • Destiny 2
  • Fortnite (a free game but paid multiplayer mode Save the World requires PS Plus)

However, purely free-to-play games like the battle royale modes of Apex Legends and Fortnite don‘t need PS Plus for online play.

According to a report by Business of Apps, over 48 million gamers play Fortnite monthly, and Apex Legends has around 30 million monthly players. These free games contribute to a thriving online community, even for those without a PS Plus membership.

So in summary:

  • Paid/full games = require PS Plus for multiplayer
  • Free-to-play games = typically don‘t need PS Plus

Having PS Plus is mandatory if you want to play online in the majority of popular PlayStation titles. But free-to-play games provide an avenue to play online without a subscription.

What are the benefits of PlayStation Plus?

Here are some of the biggest perks that come with a PS Plus membership:

Online multiplayer

PS Plus gives you access to online multiplayer modes in paid games on PS4 and PS5. Popular competitive and cooperative online titles require a subscription.

According to a 2022 report by SafeBettingSites, the top played PS4 multiplayer games are:

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2022) – 51.3 million players
  • Grand Theft Auto V – 47.5 million
  • Minecraft – 28.4 million
  • Rainbow Six: Siege – 70 million registered players

This demonstrates the massive popularity of online multiplayer gaming on PlayStation.

Free monthly games

Each month, PS Plus members get 2-4 games for free to download and keep as long as you stay subscribed.

The free monthly PlayStation Plus games typically include:

  • 1 major AAA title
  • 1-2 indie or smaller titles
  • Occasionally a PSVR game

For example, February 2023 PS Plus games included OlliOlli World, Mafia Definitive Edition, Evil Dead The Game, and Destiny 2 Beyond Light.

Games rotate in and out, so it’s best to add them to your library as soon as they are released each month.

Exclusive discounts

PlayStation Plus members get special sale pricing and discounts on games and add-ons purchased through the PlayStation Store.

Discounts are often 10%-60% off for PS Plus subscribers during sales like:

  • Critic‘s Choice Sale
  • End of Year Deals
  • Golden Week
  • Summer Sale
  • Holiday Sale

Discounted DLC, season passes, and microtransactions for popular multiplayer games like Call of Duty and GTA Online can add up to big savings for regular players.

Cloud storage

PS Plus lets you securely back up your game saves to the cloud so you won‘t lose your progress if you replace your PS4 or PS5. You can seamlessly pick up where you left off by downloading saves from the cloud.

Early access

Members sometimes get early access to try new full game trials, betas, and demos before release. This allows you to preview major upcoming games.

Share benefits

With console sharing and offline play enabled, other accounts on your primary PS4 or PS5 can enjoy your PlayStation Plus benefits, even without their own subscription.

Is PlayStation Plus worth it for online play?

For access to online multiplayer in paid games, a PS Plus membership is effectively mandatory. But it ultimately comes down to how much you‘ll use the other benefits.

According to analysts at Mordor Intelligence, PlayStation Plus had 45 million subscribers as of 2020. So for the many gamers who play online regularly, the membership easily pays for itself.

The free games alone make it worth it for a lot of users. With at least 24 games per year, paying $60 for a yearly PS Plus membership breaks down to just $2.50 per game.

Occasional or single player focused gamers can likely skip PS Plus. But frequent online multiplayer gamers will find it very worthwhile. The community and connectivity of online play is a big draw for many PlayStation fans.

How much does PlayStation Plus cost?

Here are the current PlayStation Plus membership prices:

SubscriptionMonthly PriceYearly Price
PlayStation Plus Essential$9.99$59.99
PlayStation Plus Extra$14.99$99.99
PlayStation Plus Premium$17.99$119.99

You can often find 10-30% off PS Plus membership deals around the holidays and during sales events.

Going for yearly subscriptions instead of monthly plans can save you around 16% per year. PlayStation sometimes offers prorated refunds if you upgrade from monthly to yearly billing.

Overall, PS Plus provides strong value compared to the cost of buying 2-3 new games per year at full price.

What is PlayStation Now?

PlayStation Now is Sony‘s separate cloud gaming subscription service where you can stream a library of PS2, PS3 and PS4 games on demand over the internet. It doesn‘t provide online multiplayer access or free monthly games.

PlayStation Now starts at $9.99 monthly and serves as an alternative to PS Plus for playing single player catalog titles. However, a PS Plus membership is still required for most multiplayer gaming. You can‘t substitute PS Now for PS Plus when it comes to online play.

Can you gameshare PlayStation Plus benefits?

Through console sharing and offline play, you can share your PlayStation Plus benefits with others who play on your primary PS4 or PS5 via:

  • Local offline multiplayer
  • Accessing your downloaded games
  • Cloud saves
  • Your PlayStation Plus monthly games

However, only your account will be able to play online multiplayer with your subscription. While others can access your shared content offline, PS Plus multiplayer benefits are limited to the subscribed account.

Can I cancel my PlayStation Plus membership?

You can cancel an active PS Plus subscription anytime by:

  1. Going into your PlayStation account settings
  2. Navigating to the Subscriptions section
  3. Selecting your PS Plus membership
  4. Choosing to turn off auto-renew or cancel

Just be aware that cancelling right away will terminate your access to multiplayer, monthly games, and other benefits. Make sure to turn off auto-renewal first if you want your current membership to run out before cancelling.

The bottom line

While free-to-play games like Fortnite offer online play without PS Plus, a subscription is required for most popular PlayStation games‘ multiplayer modes. The great value of monthly games, discounts, and other perks make it highly worthwhile for regular online gamers.

Hopefully this detailed guide has provided lots of insight into PlayStation Plus memberships and whether you can game online for free on PS4 and PS5! Let me know if you have any other questions.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.