On Friday, a report came out that PlayStation would be creating a new service to challenge Xbox Game Pass codenamed “Spartacus.” It makes sense why, as the Microsoft exclusive service has been a must-have for PC and Xbox owners for years and is easily the best deal in all of gaming. The problem for PlayStation is that it’s a little late to the game at this point. Game Pass has been active since 2017 and that’s given Xbox years to not only build up the service’s library but also to improve on the service itself. This doesn’t mean that PlayStation is starting from completely nothing, it’s had PlayStation Now even longer than Xbox has had Game Pass, but it’s never taken drastic steps to improve the service until the reported “Spartacus.”
With so much ground to catch up on, PlayStation has a lot of work cut out to not only put its service on the level of Game Pass but to surpass it. Right now, Game Pass is a system seller and that is likely what PlayStation eventually wants Spartacus to become. With supply chain issues making it difficult to get a PlayStation 5, and the differences between console generations not showing through yet, they have an opportunity to make Spartacus a major selling point for Sony consoles.
In order to do that, we have some ideas on what that should look like and what a Game Pass rival will need to do to draw people in.
Day One Games
One of the biggest appeals of Game Pass, and arguably is the part that’s selling consoles right now, is Xbox’s commitment to releasing first-party titles on their service at launch day. That means when a new game releases from a Microsft Studio that game will be available on Game Pass the same day it’s hitting store shelves. Don’t want to spend $60 on the new Forza Horizon game? You don’t have to, because it’s already on Game Pass and there are no plans to remove it from the service anytime soon. Unfortunately, this is a service policy that so far it sounds like Sony has no plans on replicating.
This new service, expected in the spring, will likely retain the "PlayStation Plus" branding. Don't expect Sony to include its big new games day one like Game Pass does, but the expectation is a stronger offering than PlayStation Now
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) December 3, 2021
This would be a huge misstep on PlayStation’s end if they don’t try to offer this kind of service for their own games. One of the biggest appeals of having a PlayStation over an Xbox is a very strong list of single player games built around telling a story. However, with some of these games approaching the $70 price tag on PlayStation 5 it’s beginning to price out some players. They’re instead waiting for bundles and price drops before they experience these games. If PlayStation instead made these available day one, the same way Xbox does, it would make their service an immediate get for anyone with a PlayStation while simultaneously pushing it as a console seller.
Another major plus of Game Pass is that it has a pretty healthy update schedule. Games are constantly moving in and out so there’s always a reason to check in and see what’s new. Xbox took this a step further by announcing that once a quarter it will release a Microsoft Studios project to the service. It’s capable of doing this thanks to the healthy army of studios it has bought up over the recent years, but Microsoft can also do that because of the support it has thrown behind Game Pass.
While expecting a new first-party title from Sony every quarter would be a lot, we can at least ask them to improve their library of options and make a bigger point of advertising them. Did you know that The Last of Us Part II, Final Fantasy IX, and Mafia: Definitive Edition are all currently available on PlayStation Now? These are some big titles that people would love to play, but they don’t get highlighted very much beyond the PlayStation website. Committing to a constant flow of steady releases, both new and retro, would give Sony a strong library to compete with Game Pass.
Have A Flagship Title
The flagship title of Xbox Game Pass is Sea of Thieves. Rare’s pirate game has been receiving active updates since its release in 2018 and is more popular than ever. How does a game’s player base continue to increase like that? Easy, when it’s the flagship title of Game Pass it has plenty of opportunities to bring in new players.
Sea of Thieves has, for a long time, been the title that Microsoft has used to push the service. They wanted people to get Game Pass so they could play Sea of Thieves. While Microsoft’s focus for Game Pass has shifted to other first-party releases, that original model is one that PlayStation can emulate. Find a game that brings people into the service. Make that the poster for the new service and then build around that while creating the foundation for the rest. It sounds very basic, but it’s a model we’ve already seen work and there’s no reason it can’t work again.
One of the newest features on Game Pass and one that’s still in Beta is Cloud Gaming, but it is already looking like a game changer for the service. Being able to try out games without the $60+ price tag is what makes Game Pass a great service, but even having to use up precious hard drive space (and spend hours waiting for a game to download) can be a deterrent to trying out a new game you’re on the fence about. Cloud Gaming is allowing players to dive in and test the waters immediately on Game Pass, which is going to open doors for players to more titles, and Sony replicating that would be huge for their service as well.