PlayStation Spartacus may not have been officially announced yet, but if the rumors are true, there’s a big problem – access to Day One releases. While PlayStation gamers will no doubt take PlayStation’s answer to Xbox Game Pass for PS4 and PS5, I wonder if Sony will have learned the right lessons from the competing service. With Microsoft’s subscription service now almost five years old, whatever PlayStation Is launch has a lot of catching up to do. But it may be Disney Plus that has the answer to some of its potential downfalls.
Rumors so far suggest Project Spartacus – also known as PlayStation Neo in some alleged leaks – won’t see Sony is bringing its biggest titles to the service from day one. It’s a complete contrast to Xbox Game Pass, where we’ve already seen flagship titles like Infinite Halo and Forza Horizon 5 accessible from the day of release for subscribers to the service. This would mean that upcoming PS5 games such as God of War: Ragnarok would not be offered as part of a subscription to Project Spartacus, but would still be available for purchase through traditional methods.
Despite the fact that this will so clearly place Sony’s as-yet-unconfirmed service at a disadvantage to rival Xbox, I think there’s room for interpretation on the Bloomberg report. Just because major new PS5 exclusives won’t be available day one as part of Project Spartacus doesn’t mean it doesn’t rule out a Disney Plus model. Disney hasn’t really set any rules when it comes to distributing its biggest movies through its streaming service, with some – like turn red – arrive on the first day, while others – like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings – have a series of movie exclusives before coming to Disney Plus.
But there’s also Premier Access, an option Disney has used for movies like Black Widow and Cruel, where Disney Plus subscribers could pay £20/$30 – on top of your monthly subscription – to get permanent access to the film when it’s released. Alternatively, viewers could simply wait for the date these films were integrated into the usual subscription cost. It’s an interesting concept, and something that I think could work particularly well for any subscription service Sony is planning, mainly due to the sheer number of exclusives PlayStation has in its arsenal.
One of the reasons the PS4, and now the PS5, have sold so well is thanks to PlayStation exclusives including The Last of Us, Uncharted, Horizon Zero Dawn, Spider-Man, and Ratchet and Clank. There’s no doubt within Sony that adding all of its major AAA releases to a subscription service right away would hurt the prestige of those titles, even if it would exponentially expand each franchise’s potential audience – Forza Horizon 5 crossed 18 million players, and Halo Infinite 20 million, shortly after their respective launches last year, no doubt boosted by their release in Game Pass on Xbox and PC. But, there’s certainly a trade-off for Sony with some sort of Premier Access discount scheme – as it will only add to the incentive to sign up for whatever Project Spartacus will eventually be called.
Levels before bedtime
Whatever Sony decides to do, it should be simple to understand. According to the report, Project Spartacus will combine two of its current services – PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus – while providing access to a collection of modern and more retro PlayStation titles. PlayStation Now, Sony’s cloud-based game streaming platform, is a solid service that’s hard to conceptualize or explain – it doesn’t benefit from the kind of word-of-mouth that helped propel Game Pass to over 25 million subscribers. With PlayStation Spartacus supposedly launching with several different access tiers, with the highest added benefits including game demos and game streaming, Sony could be setting itself up for a repeat mistake here. Seemingly different tiers will also offer access to different game collections. That’s a lot to take in, and to me, little add-ons like demos and streaming aren’t going to be worth whatever extra price.
Honestly, that rings all kinds of alarm bells. The beauty of Xbox Game Pass is in its simplicity. It’s a membership option – okay two if you want to bundle Game Pass Ultimate and its benefits for Xbox and PC players – gives you access to hundreds of first- and third-party versions, plus to exclusive discounts on games leaving the service, and other benefits. Big games are confirmed (and can often be pre-installed) before release. PlayStation’s iteration has a huge mountain to climb right off the bat. It should be clear how it compares to Game Pass from the moment it’s announced, without getting bogged down in the details.
The moment you start introducing levels, you enter confusing territory. Just look at Nintendo Switch Online, which now comes in two varieties – classic Nintendo Switch Online or Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pass, which for a pretty hefty price hike adds access to N64 and Sega Genesis titles as well as Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pass. ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons Happy Home Academy DLC and new Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster course pass. It’s a weird differentiation and an ugly way to phrase the tiers, which only serves to make the membership proposal more convoluted.
Of course, I’ll hold my judgment until Sony makes an official announcement, but there’s no doubt that Project Spartacus will live or die by how well it handles PlayStation exclusives.
For now though, here are the latest and greatest PlayStation Plus Deals