Sony reportedly plans to launch its answer to Xbox Game Pass this spring

The service may have multiple tiers and include games from every PlayStation generation, according to 'Bloomberg.'

Aaron Souppouris/Engadget

Xbox Game Pass has been a hit for Microsoft, and it seems Sony is preparing to respond with its own version of an all-in-one game subscription service. The company is planning to merge PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now into a new offering, which is expected to debut this spring, according to Bloomberg.

The service, which is codenamed Spartacus, would likely be available on PS4 and PS5 for a monthly fee. It's unclear whether players would be able to access it on other devices, though the report notes Sony is putting more resources into cloud gaming. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate allows players to delve into more than 100 Xbox titles via the cloud on consoles, PC, phones and tablets. Microsoft plans to make game streaming sticks for TVs too.

It seems Sony will kill off PlayStation Now, but keep the PlayStation Plus branding. Sony may not yet have finalized how Spartacus will work, but there could be three tiers to the service. According to documents viewed by Bloomberg, the lowest tier would effectively be PlayStation Plus as it is now. The second level would add a "large catalog" of PS4 titles, with PS5 games joining later. The third and highest tier would include cloud gaming, expanded demos and, akin to Nintendo Switch Online, a bunch of older PS1, PS2, PS3 and even PSP games. However, those plans may not be set in stone.

It's not clear whether Sony plans to bring its first-party exclusives to the service on their release date, as Microsoft does on Game Pass. Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan said last year that the company wouldn't "go down the road of putting new release titles into a subscription model. These games cost many millions of dollars, well over $100 million, to develop. We just don't see that as sustainable."

But the landscape has shifted since Ryan's remarks. For one thing, Microsoft bought Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media this year. All of Bethesda's games (save for a couple of timed PS5 console exclusives like Deathloop) are on Game Pass, and future Bethesda titles like Starfield might not come to PlayStation at all.

Although Game Pass would likely be Sony's biggest competitor in the game subscription market, it'll be up against several other major companies. EA and Ubisoft have subscription services, Amazon launched Luna last year and Netflix added games to its existing plans. As for cloud gaming (a category Luna also falls into), there's NVIDIA's GeForce Now and Google Stadia, and even Samsung has cloud gaming ambitions.

PlayStation Now was one of the earliest major game subscription services when it debuted in 2015, but it had a fairly tepid response. Players were only able to access PS Now games via the cloud until 2018, when they were able to download some PS4 and PS2 titles to their console.

One of the biggest complaints we had about the service when we reviewed it again in 2019 was the lack of notable games. Since then, Sony has brought some big games like The Last of Us Part II to PS Now for a limited time.

By the end of Sony's 2020 financial year, there were only 3.2 million PS Now subscribers. Microsoft announced in January that it had 18 million Game Pass members. For that reason and many others, it's a smart idea for Sony to go back to the drawing board and create a more robust subscription service.

Much like Microsoft, Sony has started looking beyond PlayStation consoles to bring its games to new audiences. Over the last year or so, it released Horizon Zero Dawn and Days Gone on PC. A bundle of Uncharted 4 and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is coming to PC in early 2022, as is the 2018 reboot of God of War.

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