Sony may be planning a new PlayStation subscription to rival Xbox Game Pass

I am "Spartacus"?

Sony is reportedly planning to consolidate its existing PlayStation subscription services into one package, potentially to take on Microsoft’s all-encompassing Xbox Game Pass.

The move comes from a Bloomberg report citing “people familiar with Sony’s plans” and claims the project is currently codenamed “Spartacus”.

At present, Sony has two subscription packages. PlayStation Plus is the primary offering, and what players need to play multiplayer games online while also gifting them a small selection of games each month to keep as long as their subscription is active. Subscribers also get additional discounts when buying digital games on the PlayStation Store.

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The other, PlayStation Now, is a cloud gaming service, providing subscribers access to a curated library of games playable anywhere with an internet connection. PlayStation Now is also the only way to play certain PS3 games on later consoles, as neither PS4 nor PS5 offer onboard backwards compatibility for the third-generation platform.

PS5 hardware line-up
The PlayStation 5 and its accompanying peripherals. Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Bloomberg suggests that “Spartacus”, which is speculated to launch in spring 2022, will merge PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now into one package. The result is expected to be something similar to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which offers the benefits of Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and an increasingly extensive library of games to download and play as part of the subscription.

It’s possible that the PlayStation Plus branding may be retained, with PlayStation Now being phased out. This would perhaps be unsurprising – despite launching in 2014 in North America, Sony has never given any significant push to the cloud service, and as of March 2021, it only had 3.2million subscribers.

In its currently proposed state, “Spartacus” might offer three tiers of access. The first is essentially the PlayStation Plus model as it exists today. The second would provide a library for PS4 and PS5 titles. Perhaps most interestingly for retro gaming fans, though, is the third rumoured tier, which may feature “extended demos, game streaming and a library of classic PS1, PS2, PS3 and PSP games”.

Playstation 5
PlayStation 5. Credit: Ben Walker / Sony Interactive Entertainment

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At present, there’s no rumoured price point for “Spartacus” at any tier, and Sony’s pricing on this still-hypothetical new service would be critical to it winning back some ground on the gaming subscription front.

Currently, PlayStation Plus costs £6.99 per month, or £49.99 per year, while PlayStation Now costs £22.99 per three months or also £49.99 per year. An £8.99 monthly option for PS Now currently shows “not available for purchase” on the UK PlayStation Store.

Conversely, Xbox Game Pass costs £7.99 per month for either the console or PC plan, or £10.99 monthly for the Ultimate package that includes console, PC, Xbox Live Gold, and EA Play. Similar annual discounts are also available.

If rumours of “Spartacus” do prove true, it could be the most prominent shake-up players have seen from Sony’s digital service offerings in years. The idea that Sony might be gearing up for a subscription gaming overhaul may also explain the arguably lacklustre offerings on PlayStation Plus in recent months, with December 2021’s selection including only a cut-down version of PS5 game Godfall.

Elsewhere, Meta – the recently rebranded Facebook – plans to extend its name change to its virtual reality arm, with the Oculus Quest headset and app being renamed early in 2022.

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