It also paywalls "priority" customer service, which is just egregious
PlayStation’s brand-new loyalty program, PlayStation Stars, has launched in Canada.
You can sign up for PlayStation Stars for free in the PS App on Android and iOS. The option will appear on the home page right between your PSN name and the notifications icon — it’s a little star wrapping around the PS logo.
On paper, the program seems like a sound concept, as it lets you earn points that can be redeemed towards games, PSN wallet funds and digital collectibles. Various sets of limited-time objectives called “campaigns” will be run periodically, and completing these will earn you specified rewards, like extra points or a digital collectible. You can also get points by making various game purchases.
There are a few catches, however, starting with the fact that the entire PS Stars experience is currently exclusive to the PS App. In other words, there’s no way to access it from your actual PlayStation 4 or 5 console. But there’s more.
First, you need to be a PlayStation Plus member to collect points on eligible game purchases, which automatically limits its audience. What’s more, the points distribution is… odd. For example, one of the current campaigns, ‘PlayStation Store Picks,’ gives you just 50 points for purchasing one of six games: NBA 2K23, Saints Row, TMNT Collection, The Last of Us Part 1, Inscryption and Madden NFL 23. The point redemption breakdown, meanwhile, is 1,250 points = $5.00 CAD and 6,250 points = $25.00. In this way, 50 points aren’t worth much.
However, while it’s not immediately clear in the app, you can earn points in other ways, like by making select pre-orders. For example, a U.S. user apparently earned 758 points by pre-ordering The Callisto Protocol, the new horror game from the creators of Dead Space. All in all, it appears to be about four percent back on purchases, which is certainly better than it initially seems.
By comparison, Microsoft Rewards, which includes perks for Xbox gamers, is free for everyone and has a far wider variety of ways to earn points than PS Stars. Nintendo’s Gold Points system, meanwhile, automatically gives everyone five percent back on most eShop purchases — no additional program membership is required.
Overall, PS Stars certainly seems to place a heavy emphasis on digital collectibles. When the program was first announced, people wondered if these were NFTs, the controversial and ostensibly worthless digital-only items, but Sony was quick to shut this down, noting that they can’t be traded or sold. Instead, these collectibles all have different rarities attached to them, not unlike a PlayStation Trophy. Further, PlayStation Stars’ leveling system is centred almost entirely around digital collectibles:
- Tier 1 Milestones — Joined the program and started completing campaigns
- Tier 1 Benefits — Digital collectibles through completing campaigns, one celebration collectible
- Tier 2 Milestones — Bought one full game from the PlayStation Store and earned one Uncommon trophy
- Tier 2 Benefits — Level 2 celebration collectible and access to all level 1 collectibles.
- Tier 3 Milestones — Bought two full games from the PlayStation store and earned 32 Uncommon trophies
- Tier 3 Benefits — Level 3 celebration collectible and a birthday collectible
- Tier 4 Milestones — Bought four full games from the PlayStation Store and earned 128 Uncommon trophies
- Tier 4 Benefits — Celebration collectible, all Level 1-3 collectibles and “chat priority routing”
As you can see, nearly every single perk is tied to these digital collectibles. The only one that isn’t, “chat priority routing,” has proven to be (justifiably) controversial. Essentially, this means that PlayStation’s best customer service is locked behind a paywall — an incredibly anti-consumer business move. It’s also worth noting that a datamine of the PS App pointed to a mysterious fifth, invite-only Tier, although that hasn’t been confirmed.
Looking past that, the digital collectibles themselves are rather strange. Once you earn one, you can view it as a little 3D model under the ‘Collectibles’ tab. For signing up, you’re given a PlayStation-branded ‘Star Gazer Telescope,’ which Sony says is ‘Common.’ You can then place these on a virtual display case, which has a few different background options. (I picked one that’s clearly inspired by God of War: Ragnarök, although the app strangely doesn’t even mention that.)
And that’s pretty much it. You have a display case with these weird collectibles that just… sit there. PlayStation says you have the option of showing your collection to other adult PlayStation Network users, but otherwise, your ability to flaunt your collection is limited.
Elsewhere, the only other digital collectibles currently up for grabs via points redemption are two Ape Escape-themed dioramas. You can also complete a few campaigns to unlock a ‘PlayStation Tech Demo Tyrannosaurus Rex’ (play any PS4/PS5 game), a ‘Novelty Toy Fight Trophy’ (play a match in Street Fighter V, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat 11 or Tekken 7) and a ‘Sony Chord Machine’ (the objectives of which are unclear as part of an apparent puzzle to solve).
Ultimately, it doesn’t hurt to sign up for PS Stars, given that it’s free. If you’re someone who regularly purchases games on PSN, it might be worth just having to get some cash back. But otherwise, there’s not much to the program, and the fact that it paywalls top-tier customer service just makes it feel unsavoury.
You can learn more about PS Stars here.
Image credit: PlayStation