It was to be expected, but it comes as a surprise: The journalist Jason Schreier claims to have found out that Sony want to start their own subscription service as early as the spring of next year. The code name for this is Spartacus, as can be seen in his article for Bloomberg, and is said to be in direct competition with the Xbox Game Pass. However, one detail shows that Playstation will ultimately have a different focus than Microsoft.
What about Playstation Now?
Now some might think that Playstation actually already offers such a subscription service – and that’s true. Playstation Now went online in Europe in April 2016. The subscription service costs 9.99 euros per month and offers subscribers access to over 300 titles. These are both retro games and blockbusters that will be added to the service months after release.
According to Bloomberg, Playstation Now will become part of Playstation Plus in the future. The service that players have to use if they want to play online. Playstation Plus also offers monthly games that subscribers can download at no extra charge and play for as long as they are a member of the service. Playstation Now should disappear and Playstation Plus should be the service that includes both online gaming and subscription service.
What’s new about Spartacus?
The documents that Bloomberg could see are said to speak of three subscription levels. The first stage should include the benefits that PS Plus users can already enjoy today: online play and monthly free games. The second level is to provide access to PS4 games. For a slightly higher surcharge, although the exact prices are not yet known, subscribers should have a catalog of games available – comparable to the Xbox Game Pass. Little by little, games for the Playstation 5 will also be added to this range.
The third and the most expensive tier, in turn, should provide access to even more retro games. This means games from the Playstation 1, PS2, PS3 and PSP era. Similar to Nintendo with their online service, Playstation seems to want to focus particularly on nostalgia. The most expensive subscription package is the one with the retro games. And it is often these games, which are hardly available without an emulator, that attract a particularly large number of gamers. That’s why many fans are currently very dissatisfied with Nintendo’s online service, which now also includes N64 games, but only offers them in droplets. Meanwhile, games of all handheld systems and consoles after the Nintendo 64 are still behind bars.
An important detail
The Xbox Game Pass is now said to have over 18 million subscribers. Surely many of them will play indie games or older generation Xbox games. A large part of the players is likely to use the subscription service above all to be able to play the big blockbuster games directly on the release day via a monthly subscription fee. The great strength of the Game Pass is that even AAA games like “Halo Infinite” are not offered in the Game Pass until months after the release – when most of them have already bought the game at full price.
If the information from Bloomberg is correct, Sony still seems to want to go another way. Because the most important detail of the information is: No Sony games should be part of the subscription service immediately upon release. Playstation still wants to sell its own blockbuster games at full price. This shows a different strategic direction than competitor Microsoft. And also a different orientation than the many other publishers who have now set up subscription services: Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Google and more.
The big brands
Even if the Xbox Games Studios have become bigger and bigger in the last few months due to many acquisitions – the big and well-known brands can still be found on Playstation, in addition to Nintendo. Sure, “Halo” or “Forza” are very successful franchises. Also a “Gears of War”. But these games primarily serve one audience: fans of action games with a strong multiplayer aspect. That is why such games can also be offered wonderfully via subscription services. At best, it’s games that become platforms. Which are expanded over months and years, for which DLCs and other additional content are offered – and which ensure that the players renew their subscription every month.
Playstation now likes to put more money into its own subscription service, but seems to want to appeal to Playstation fans who want to catch up on old games without having to go deep having to dig into my pocket. The well-known Playstation brands such as “God of War”, “Horizon: Zero Dawn” or “The Last of Us” have a large focus on the single player. They are expensive games that have to generate a lot of sales in the first few weeks after their release in order to be financed. In the meantime, some of these games also appear on the PC – but only months or years later.
Xbox is more about quantity. It should be the hundreds of games in the Game Pass that should encourage people to take out a subscription. Hardware sales are less important than the mass of subscribers. Sony certainly wants to attract as many people as possible into its ecosystem. With Playstation Plus they have been making billions in sales for years. But the focus here still seems to be on selling as much hardware as possible in order to then sell exclusive games at full price on this hardware. And as the sales figures show: This strategy is still working.