Orignally published on 2021-12-04 13:45:31 by www.forbes.com
Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that PlayStation is planning to do a large scale overhaul of its online subscription offerings this spring, with an aim toward creating a more robust competitor to the explosively successful Xbox Game Pass.
The idea is to combine PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now into one offering, codenamed Spartacus, though they would likely just keep the Plus branding and absorb Now.
The report says the new service would have tiers, which include the following:
- Tier 1 – Existing PlayStation Plus benefits
- Tier 2 – A large catalog of PS4 games, and eventually, PS5 games
- Tier 3 – Extended demos, game streaming and a library of PS1, PS2, PS3 and PSP games
“Although the PlayStation has outsold the Xbox in recent years, Sony has lagged behind Microsoft on the subscription front. With this new structure, Sony will look to compete with an Xbox feature that has been popular and lucrative,” Bloomberg says.
And yet, looking through what this actually offers, it seems pretty clear that unless something drastic is being hidden away, this is more about rebranding and restructuring than creating Spartacus as a true Xbox Game Pass competitor.
It’s pretty easy to see it’s missing two of the most important elements of why Xbox Game Pass is a success:
- Jason Schreier says no, this does not include plans to launch AAA PlayStation exclusive game day one on PlayStation Spartacus, the main draw of Xbox Game Pass.
- Similarly, there do not appear to be multi-platform launch plans, where Game Pass will have a game debut on console, PC and cloud at the same time. Rather, these sold-separately games will still be out for PlayStation consoles only at launch, it seems, even if Sony has shown openness to porting games to PC a long while after release.
I do think it’s smart to ditch PlayStation Now branding and to fold everything into the umbrella of PlayStation Plus. Sony may certainly snag more subscribers with a streamlined, tiered system like this.
And yet, what’s being offered here is…still very far away from what makes Game Pass so appealing. Sony is terrified of folding up PS5 games, specifically their high profile exclusives, into a subscription service like this, and they really, really want to retain the revenue from selling $70 disc and digital copies of these games.
In one sense, it’s hard to blame them. These games are massive best-sellers most of the time, and Sony has a lengthy proven history of producing exclusive megahits. They just spent the last generation dominating Microsoft in both console sales and exclusive offerings, so they are not in a position of weakness where they would need to fold all their big hits into a subscription.
And yet, if they don’t, PS Plus Ultimate, or whatever the final name for this ends up being, will not be a serious competitor to Game Pass in the ways that matter, and Microsoft will retain the advantage in that space.
That may be fine for now, but if we get a few years into this generation and Microsoft continues this recent Forza/Halo trend of big name, beloved games being offered for free on Game Pass (Starfield, Perfect Dark, Fable, Avowed and Elder Scrolls are all coming), Sony’s system may feel increasingly antiquated. In many ways, their demanded $70 price point for games this generation already does.
I will certainly be curious to see what the final format of PlayStation Spartacus looks like, but again, I am expecting a rebrand, not a conversion into a full Game Pass system.