Sony is reportedly working on a major new subscription service initiative to counter Xbox Game Pass in 2022. Code-named ‘Spartacus’, it’s set to combine PlayStation Plus and Playstation Now with multiple tiers that could also offer retro PS1, PS2 and PSP games.
The reporting by Bloomberg, who have seen documentation of these plans, suggests that the PlayStation Plus brand will remain while the PlayStation Now brand and service is folded in alongside. This would be similar to how Microsoft has Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate that combines the two.
Spartacus will be a three tiered offering that, as a base level, matches what is currently offered through PlayStation Plus. Pricier tiers will then offer a PlayStation Now-style catalogue of PlayStation 4 games and, eventually, PlayStation 5 games. The final tier will then offer extended demos, game streaming and access to a library of PS1, PS2, PS3 and PSP games. To break it down:
- Tier 1 – PlayStation Plus equivalent
- Tier 2 – PlayStation Plus with access to PS5 and PS4 library
- Tier 3 – PlayStation with access to PS5, PS4, PS3, PS2, PS1 and PSP library with game streaming and additional perks
The intention isn’t to match Microsoft’s policy of bundling in first party games on day one, as Microsoft does with Xbox Game Pass, but still to rival it by having a stronger offering. In fairness, PS Now does often bring major games to the table, but typically feels a half step behind Xbox Game Pass, particularly in securing games for the service on the day of launch.
With a stronger selection of games and splashier marketing, Sony could look to quickly catch up on Microsoft’s lead in this market. Xbox Game Pass reportedly had around 20 million subscribers around the middle of 2021 and that number is expected to grow through the release of Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite. By contrast, Sony had just 3.2 million subscribers to PlayStation Now in May 2021 despite having a huge lead in home console sales.
One element that isn’t clear is if Sony will immediately look to expand their game streaming platform. Several years ago, the service was offered to various console platforms, bundled in with Sony Xperia phones and on a variety of TVs, but it was scaled back over time. By contrast, Xbox Cloud Gaming is now available across consoles, PCs, iOS and Android phones, and Microsoft is working to bundle it into smart TVs and cooking up a small streaming stick or box as a dedicated device.
There’s a lot of unknowns here and things that have yet to be finalised, but here’s what I do know: if they don’t call the top tier PlayStation Plus Ultra, then someone isn’t doing their job properly.