Report: Sony plans new PlayStation Plus subscriptions to take on Xbox Game Pass

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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.

Source: Bloomberg

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  1. Chances of tier 3 being more expensive than it currently costs for PS+ and PS Now? Making it way to sneakily put the prices up.

    I don’t think shoving everything in there on day 1 like with Game Pass would be a good idea, so it’s good if they’re not going that route. That can’t be sustainable long term, can it? Or at least the consequences of it might not be great.

    Maybe tier 1 for a bit less than PS+, tier 3 for the £100 (before discounts) for PS+/Now, and tier 2 somewhere in between? As it’s clearly something less than you currently get with PS+ and PS Now combined.

    • If they want to catch up to Game Pass, they’ll match or better Game Pass Ultimate’s month to month price of £10.99 / $14.99 a month for Tier 3. There’s £7.99 / $9.99 a month for Tier 2 to match basic Game Pass (which doesn’t have streaming included). The question is if they’ll go hyper aggressive to get people on board with trials and conversions, and what this means for monthly and yearly payment options.

      As for sustainability, adding games to these services is not that big a financial burden. We’ve seen what Epic was paying out to get their free games to give away and we know that Microsoft similarly pays up front for a game on Game Pass for a particular period of time – it’s not performance based. There’s billions being generated by these various subscriptions, even with the crazy upgrade offers some people are taking advantage of.

      • If they match Game Pass Ultimate’s price, that’s over 30% more a year than the current cost of PS+ and PS Now. Assuming the yearly prices. It’s 30% less based on the monthly price for +/Now.

        The yearly price for the 2 works out at £8.33 a month. (If you don’t get it for cheap when they’ve been doing that).

        I’ve a horrible feeling they’ll manage to put the price up while claiming the monthly price is cheaper than MS are offering.

        And while the price they’re paying to include games might just be a flat fee and not performance based, how these things perform on the various services is definitely going to be tracked and taken into account when they get more games. Look at how things work with Netflix or Amazon. They’ve got all the data on what people watch, how many new customers something brings in, and how likely they are to retain those customers.

        Which then leads to cases where some series has done it’s job, brought in more customers, kept them around for a year for the second season and then gets cancelled because it won’t bring in any more new customers. (Unless it’s Amazon and you happen to be Jeff Bezos’ alleged favourite series and get saved from cancellation and get 3 more seasons – which is great news if you like The Expanse. Which you should)

        It’s not guaranteed, but there’s a risk that Sony had 2 services that were working fine, MS came along and copied them and got all the good news by adding big expensive things on day one, and we’ll end up with developers being extra safe and boring to get that guaranteed money. No interesting little games with a limited audience, because the algorithms say they won’t bring in enough new subscribers and get them to stick around. Bigger games designed to appeal to the most subscribers possible. And the really big AAA titles being stuff full of microtransactions and the horrible “battle pass” crap to make up for just being paid a flat fee instead of the opportunity to sell millions.

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