In December of last year, Bloomberg reported that Sony is working on a Xbox Game Pass rival for its PlayStation brand. This new service, codenamed “Spartacus” was rumored to launch in Spring of 2022 with three different tiers. Spartacus would combine the existing PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus brands into one but retain the PS Plus name.
This would be Sony’s attempt at capturing some of the market that the Xbox Game Pass has dominated for some time now, along with giving its PlayStation userbase their own Game Pass of sorts. However, the report made it clear not to expect PlayStation exclusives to release on Spartacus on day one, unlike Microsoft who does release all its exclusives day-and-date on Game Pass with their retail release.
As credible a source Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier is, these are still just rumors. But, that hasn’t stopped fans and the industry from speculating. The news seems very plausible and the claims have gotten so big that IGN managed to ask Xbox CEO Phil Spencer about them, demanding his reaction. Speaking to IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey, Phil Spencer gave his two cents on the matter.
SCOOP: Sony is planning a new subscription service, code-named Spartacus, to take on Xbox Game Pass. It's being pitched as a three-tier service that will merge PlayStation Now with PlayStation Plus. Highest tier could include PS1/PS2/PSP games https://t.co/rz5tC3ExcR
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) December 3, 2021
Phil Spencer on Spartacus
Phil mentioned that an eventual Game Pass-like service from Sony was inevitable. It was more of a ‘when’ than an ‘if’. Phil added that he even expects PlayStation to make new releases available day one on Spartacus, but he didn’t mention whether those include PlayStations’s exclusives. Remember, early reports suggested that won’t be the case.
I don’t mean it to sound like we’ve got it all figured out, but I think the right answer is allowing your customers to play the games they wanna play, where they wanna play them, and giving them choice about how they build their library, and being transparent with them about what our plans are in terms of our PC initiatives and our cross-gen initiatives and other things.[…]
So when I hear others doing things like Game Pass or coming to PC, it makes sense to me because I think that’s the right answer.
Furthermore, Phil believes that while he and his team don’t want to pretend like they’ve got everything figured out. Going in this general direction of playing whenever you want, wherever you want, on whatever you want is simply the right approach and where the future is headed. So, when Xbox launched Game Pass, it wasn’t like an end-all-be-all win for Xbox, they were just the first to the market, and their drive to innovate would allow them to continue to compete once Spartacus does become a reality.
I don’t really look at it as validation. I actually, when I’m talking to our teams, I talk about it as an inevitability. So for us, we should continue to innovate, continue to compete, because the things that we’re doing might be advantages that we have in the market today, but they’re just based on us going first, not that we’ve created something that no one else can go create.
I like it because it feeds our energy on what are the next things that we should be working on as we continue to build out the things that we’ve done in the past. Because I think the right answer is to ship great games, ship them on PC, ship them on console, ship them on cloud, make them available Day 1 in the subscription. And I expect that’s what our competitor will do.
Phil Spencer goes on to say that he doesn’t see Sony developing their own Game Pass as a sort of validation, he doesn’t feel that this is a pat on the back saying that Xbox was right all along, instead just an inevitability held back by time. Now that Game Pass has soared to new heights, Sony want to finally get in on the fun and try to replicate the success of Microsoft’s service.
Xbox Game Pass initially launched in June 2017 and has grown to more than 18 million subscribers since then. It has certainly become the biggest USP of the Xbox brand along with being a major contributor to Microsoft’s gaming business. It remains to be seen if Spartacus can reproduce this sort of magic for Sony.