Regardless of where you stand in the so-called “console war”, it’s hard to deny that Xbox Game Pass has revolutionized what we’ve come to expect from gaming.
Sony has been more successful than Microsoft in terms of gaming hardware, with the PS5 outselling the Xbox Series X and Series S. However, so far PlayStation has offered little-to-no resistance when it comes to software.
While there have been rumors floating around that the company is readying to announce its own Xbox Game Pass rival, nothing yet has been officially confirmed yet. And the gap between the two brands is only set to widen now that Microsoft has agreed to buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion.
There’s no point sugarcoating it - it’s no longer enough for Sony to announce a straightforward service that allows users to download from an extended catalog of PlayStation games and be done with it. As Xbox’s collection of gaming brands continues to grow, I firmly believe that the only way that Sony can come close to competing with Xbox Game Pass is if it includes PC support as part of its platform.
What is Project Spartacus?
Back in December 2021, Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier reported that Sony was developing a new service that could take on Xbox Game Pass. Codenamed ‘Project Spartacus’, the upcoming platform is reportedly due to launch in Spring 2022 and will give PlayStation users access to “a catalog of modern and classic games” for a monthly subscription fee. Even Xbox boss Phil Spencer recently said that it was “inevitable” that PlayStation will release its own Game Pass equivalent in the near future.
According to Schreier, Sony’s gaming service could be split into three tiers, with the base level expected to give users essentially the same benefits as PlayStation Plus, namely access to multiplayer online gaming as well as several free downloadable games a month.
The second tier is suggested to be the one that’s most similar to Xbox Game Pass, granting PS4 and PS5 owners the ability to download as much as they wish from an extensive library of PlayStation games. Meanwhile, the third and most expensive tier would grant access to all of the above, as well as a selection of classic PS1, PS2 and PSP games.
What Project Spartacus will need to compete with
Although Xbox Game Pass first launched back in 2017, the platform grew significantly throughout the pandemic as Microsoft began to place a larger emphasis on the gaming side of its business. According to Microsoft, the number of Game Pass subscribers has recently passed 25 million subscribers - though interestingly, this growth still managed to fall beneath the company’s expectations.
It’s easy to see how Microsoft’s subscription service has managed to build a good reputation within the gaming community in just a few short years. For $9.99 / £7.99 to $14.99 / £10.99 a month, users receive unlimited access to an impressive list of gaming titles, including some of the best Xbox Series X/S games available.
The list of games available on Xbox Game Pass is updated fairly frequently, with a recent estimate suggesting that Microsoft added over $6,300 worth of games to Game Pass in 2021. Considering the number of gaming brands that now sit underneath the Microsoft umbrella, Sony may have a difficult time competing with the selection available on Xbox Game Pass given that future Bethesda projects like Starfield will be exclusive to Xbox and PC after Microsoft acquired ZeniMax Media last year for $7.5 billion.
It also remains to be seen whether any upcoming Activision Blizzard titles like Overwatch 2 could become Xbox exclusives once the deal closes in 2023. However, as it stands, Xbox has highlighted its commitment to continuing to support the PlayStation community in the future.
So how likely is PC support for Project Spartacus?
One of the biggest selling points for the Xbox Game Pass is that it grants its users access to highly anticipated releases such as Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite immediately from day one.
According to initial rumors regarding Sony’s Game Pass rival, it seemed unlikely that the Japanese company would offer its subscribers day one access to the biggest PlayStation releases. However, Microsoft has since announced its intention to purchase Activision Blizzard, which likely threw a wrench in Sony’s plans.
In addition to day one access to new releases, Project Spartacus will still likely need to include PC support as part of its offering in order to compensate for a less impressive gaming library compared to Xbox Game Pass.
It’s difficult to gauge just how likely Sony is to make its games accessible on PC. Still, it wouldn’t be completely unexpected given how big-name PlayStation titles such as God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Days Gone have already made their way to PC and how many more are expected to follow suit, including Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection and Death Stranding: Director’s Cut. But even with that in mind, PlayStation’s monumental task of catching up to Xbox Game Pass will be no easy feat.
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