Sony has been quietly working on its own version of Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass subscription platform, and now the PlayStation-maker may launch it as soon as next week, according to a new report from Bloomberg.
The service, codenamed Project Spartacus, has been in the works for an undetermined amount of time, and we know only of its existence from a separate Bloomberg story from December outlining how Sony intends to combine its PlayStation Plus membership program with its PlayStation Now cloud gaming platform. The combined offering, which will be available in various pricing tiers, will contain an assortment of games and, at the highest tier, the ability to stream those games on non-PlayStation devices.
Sony's willingness to expand its subscription offerings is evidence of the changing tides in the game industry, which is transitioning away from prioritizing unit sales of games and shifting toward live service gaming that monetizes software over months and years through microtransactions. Subscriptions and live service gaming are now proving to be fast-growing pillars of the ever-changing game market, and Sony's primary competitor Microsoft is leading the charge.
While narrative single-player games and indie titles remain popular, Microsoft has outlined a bold vision for how to package and sell those games more effectively as a subscription platform, similar in many ways to Netflix. Additionally, Microsoft is now combining that offering with its cloud gaming platform to let players access games on mobile devices, laptops and tablets instead of just through a TV or computer monitor. Sony is now feeling pressure to compete lest it risk falling behind, and it intends to do so with Spartacus.
One thing reports have made clear in the past few months is that Sony does not intend to try to match Xbox Game Pass on first-party releases. Microsoft has grown its subscription platform to more than 25 million subscribers due to both the quantity of games available on the service and the fact that brand-new $60 and $70 titles made by Microsoft's various studios release on Game Pass the same day they're made available at retail. That makes Game Pass, which ranges in price from $10 to $15 per month, an extremely appealing offering if a consumer wants to play, for instance, the newest Halo game or Forza Horizon title.
Sony reportedly doesn't plan to do the same with existing new releases like Horizon Forbidden West, which released last month, or upcoming ones like God of War Ragnarök, according to Bloomberg, likely out of fear that releasing those games onto its subscription platform might hurt long-term retail sales. That may put it at a severe disadvantage when competing with Game Pass.