Sony is preparing to launch a PlayStation competitor to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, kick-starting a race between the console firms to establish a Netflix-style service for gaming.
The service will offer a wide selection of titles for a low monthly subscription and build on Sony’s long-running PlayStation Plus model, which offers members two free games a month and access to online multiplayer options for £49.99 a year.
Later this year Sony will rebrand that service PS+ Essentials and add two more expensive tiers, Extra and Premium. The former will add “up to 400 of the most enjoyable PS4 and PS5 games – including blockbuster hits from our PlayStation Studios catalog and third-party partners” for £83.99 a year. The latter will include a video game streaming service that includes titles from previous PlayStation generations for £99.99 a year.
The top tier is comparable to Microsoft’s Game Pass, which starts at £10.99 a month. Both services offer downloadable and streaming games from the past 20 years. However, Sony claims to offer more titles, dating to the first PlayStation.
“The new Extra and Premium tiers represent a major evolution for PlayStation Plus,” Sony said. “With these tiers, our key focus is to ensure the hundreds of games we offer will include the best-quality content that sets us apart. At launch, we plan to include titles such as Death Stranding, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Mortal Kombat 11, and Returnal.”
The service will launch in several Asian markets in June before expanding to most of the rest of the world.
Despite the companies launching new home consoles in 2020, they have avoided the open competition of previous generations. Sony pushed the PlayStation 5 with a focus on exclusive titles, while Microsoft committed to making new games playable on its Xbox Series X console as well as the older Xbox One. Instead, the American company built up its Game Pass offering, which gives users access to more than 100 games for £10.99.
While Sony claims its rival to Game Pass will include more games, Microsoft is still unique in promising subscribers that every new game the company makes will be included in its subscription package on the day of release. Instead, the Sony chief executive, Jim Ryan, says the company will still launch its biggest titles as standalone purchases.
Speaking to the industry site GamesIndustry.biz, Ryan said: “We feel if we were to do that with the games that we make at PlayStation Studios, that virtuous cycle will be broken.
“The level of investment that we need to make in our studios would not be possible, and we think the knock-on effect on the quality of the games that we make would not be something that gamers want.”
Game Pass and PlayStation Plus include game streaming as part of their packages, letting subscribers play via remote servers, rather than having to download games to a home console.
The technology has been adopted by Amazon and Google as they attempt to enter the market with their Stadia and Luna services respectively, with mixed success. Last year Google closed its in-house game development studio and is attempting to pivot Stadia to provide white-label support for other gaming companies.