Report: PlayStation Planning Xbox Game Pass-Style Subscription Service

Report: PlayStation Planning Xbox Game Pass-Style Subscription Service
Photo: Charly Triballeau, Getty Images

Sony is finalising a new PlayStation subscription meant to give the platform its own Xbox Game Pass-style service that’s tentatively scheduled to launch next spring, Bloomberg reports.

The current plan is apparently to combine PlayStation’s cloud-based gaming service PlayStation Now with the monthly free game offerings of PlayStation Plus, phasing out the former in favour of the latter’s more prominent branding. According to internal Sony documents seen by Bloomberg, the monthly fee for this new subscription (code-named Spartacus) will provide players with unlimited access to a library of both modern and classic PlayStation games.

Kotaku contacted Sony for comment but didn’t hear back before publication.

Much like Xbox Game Pass, the Spartacus subscription will also come in various flavours depending on how much users are willing to spend. The cheapest tier should look a lot like the current PlayStation Plus service, the second tier will add PlayStation 4 and (eventually) PlayStation 5 games, and a third tier will offer extended demos and game streaming as well as PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and even PlayStation Portable libraries.

Spartacus is also expected to be available on both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, meaning folks who still haven’t been able to secure Sony’s hard-to-find next-gen console won’t be left out in the cold.

Arm-chair analysis about timing aside, this is a no-brainer for Sony. Xbox Game Pass, which first launched in 2017, is the single best thing Microsoft’s video game division has produced in decades, attracting more than 18 million subscribers with its Netflix-style approach to gaming. With a much greater existing install base across console generations and an obvious hunger for this kind of subscription model, Spartacus is sure to be a hit if Sony approaches its PlayStation plan with the same fervor as Microsoft and Xbox.

And honestly, every major company in this industry should be giving us more ways to legally play classic games at a reasonable price.

Comments

  • Very interested to see how this shapes up. Will Sony go all the way like MS and give us day one releases from their own studios? Hard to see it.

    • It feels like anything less than day one releases for their studio is a sign they don’t trust the concept to pay the bills. I honestly would be surprised if they did it considering that they already charge more for PS5 games and charge you to upgrade from a PS4 it shows that they clearly value box sales.

        • sales.
          PS5: 14,906,399
          XSX|S: 9,226,130
          Xbox has made up alot of ground and game pass is surely a key factor to that (and its easier to get an xbox than a ps5). If Sony do try to copy the game pass model they would need to add first party games at least within a reasonable window from launch, or else yeah, there’s no point

          • Gamepass is also on PC though, and now with the clod gaming bit, you can get Ult and use the cloud to play the older Xbox games that are not available on PC normally. I feel like that’s a big factor that is not looked at enough, especially when Consoles are sold at a loss.

  • I read somewhere that the average US gamer spends USD133 each year (https://www.statista.com/statistics/1200127/frequency-purchases-us-adults-video-games-coronavirus/)… which works out to about $11 (USD) per month…. a single dollar more than the $10 game pass subscription cost. On paper this means that if EVERYONE just had GamePass then it would be close to a zero sum game for the consumer… and they get a lot more games. Sounds almost too good to be true.

    Except now you only have ALL that money going to Microsoft who then gets to distribute it to where MS wants. .. how it wants. Gaming needs a healthy diversity – and for all that Sony dominated last gen console sales, it relied primarily on having a small core of quality games to drive consumer buying. The console sales actually wasn’t important – it was the control of the games shop front (and the cut of sales that was important) that Sony wanted to dominate. The more good games you sold, the more money it made.

    Now I’m not a fan of what Sony is doing either… by charging what I think is ridiculous money ($124 here in AUD) for a single first party game. And I am guessing/worried we will end up still paying a premium for new releases AND higher increased subscription fees. That’s just how Sony swings.

    But I don’t think the economics (money AND time) work with too many gaming subscription services (a streaming series may take 8-10 hours for a couple at home… a lot of games now take 20-50 hours to play – and they are often played singularly). Who has the time to do more (even with the pandemic change to our lives).

    While it was good that MS shook up the industry… I for one think we need healthy competition to get the best games (whichever system). I just don’t want GP to be a cage match to the death – one that Sony cannot win. I think while people may win in the short-term with great access to games, I just worry the long term effects could hurt us all.

    • This is one of my major concerns with this kind of subscription model. There will be a significant number of people who just pay for the subscription and that’s it – that already gives them more games than they can play, so they won’t buy many (if any) others.

      If these services become ubiquitous then it leaves a situation where the only way some games stand a chance of making money is by getting onto GamePass and / or other similar services. This, in turn, creates a situation where the platform holders are dictating what games get made and how much the creators get paid. If you don’t have a commitment that they’ll put your game on these services, you might start questioning whether it’s viable to even start developing given the shrinking pool of people willing to actually buy games instead of, or in addition to, paying for their subscription.

      • Excellent analysis. I had not thought of it that way. I only pay for one game now since getting GP; just the expansions and seasons for a AAA game I regularly play, anything else I play (briefly) is ‘free’ because it’s on GP. I’m not actively seeking out games and paying for them because there’s enough to satisfy me on GP. If it’s not on GP, it’s not on my radar.

        Without assuming too much I don’t think I’m alone in that. There’s only so many gaming hours in the day so AUD$200 per year bundled with Xbox live is a pretty good equation when compared to the cost of getting 2 or 3 standalone AAA releases.

        But it does mean that if it’s not on GP, I’ll probably miss it. Which, as you point out, means that I’m effectively only getting a curated list or mostly franchises

      • Yep – the problem is that GP IS too good to be true… and it seems to me the whole point of it is to suck up as much discretionary spending money as possible… and I don’t understand why people think this is about being pro-gamer… it’s about being pro-business. The question is – could Sony do the same? Looking at the description in this article – this is more about re-branding their existing products rather than actually providing a direct competitor to GP. If so, it will fail to pull back people on the GP train. If I didn’t have as much money to spend where my heart was, I would also be seriously thinking about an XB/GP option. Hell I was before I bought my PS5 (just because I thought Sony were falling into the PS3 trap of hubris and arrogance).

        The risk is that while Sony farts around with half-baked responses, MS may well run them out of business. And for me – while I occasionally hanker for nostalgic games… I would never buy a system based on whether it can play a 15-25 year old game.. I get that there are plenty of people that would – but in the scheme of things they may have money, but on a subscription service you may not actually get that much of it beyond their subscription.

        The real reason why MS’ GP makes sense for them, is that they also dominate the PC market, and linking consumer games (PC + console + mobile thru cloud gaming) means they can effectively tie up a huge portion of the non-Apple-based cash-base. Sony doesn’t have a reason to do this – and even their recent PC ports are there primarily to try to entice people to buy into the PS ecosystem. Why do this when you can seamlessly move between platforms on a MS ecosystem. Don’t get me wrong – I refuse to buy into a subscription to pay for Office (likewise I refused to do that for Adobe products). I now enjoy a good range of open alternatives…. however, for gaming we can’t do that. Which is why it makes a lot of sense for MS – but NO sense for Sony.

  • “to combine PlayStation’s cloud-based gaming service PlayStation Now…”

    so, we won’t be getting it then?

  • My kids will laugh one day when I tell them that I actually owned games I paid for. And they were complete when released, with no updates, or add ons or loot boxes… ahh golden days. I must be old

  • People will subscribe to it, but unless it offers day one releases the magic is lost. Gamepass has kind of become a pseudo social event as of late, with communities experiencing day one releases together.

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