PlayStation Just Lost The Last Battle In The Console War. There's No Way Back
The name given to the brand-new attempt from PlayStation to revamp their PlayStation Now is a dramatic one, but given recent events in the gaming industry, it very much needs to be. Word of Sony's leap to a subscription service from the current admittedly lacklustre PlayStation Now is certainly welcome, and once upon a time, competition with the monumental Game Pass would have been easy - but Xbox has just purchased Activision Blizzard, the company that owns the likes of Call of Duty, Starcraft, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch. With many of the games owned by Activision Blizzard likely to arrive on Game Pass very soon, and with upcoming titles likely to land on day one, PlayStation is in a bit of a pickle.
Regardless, they seem to be making an attempt to compete with Game Pass - but is it futile at this point? Has PlayStation just missed the chance to square up to its leading competitor on the biggest battlefield of 21st-century gaming?
What Can The PlayStation Game Pass Competitor Offer Right Now?
As of right now, PlayStation has a remarkable wealth of amazing first-party titles, but it's expected that they're not going to be completely willing to shell them out onto a streaming service - which pushes them into a bit of a corner.
The trouble is, the PlayStation ecosystem is vastly different to Xbox's even more so after the introduction of the Game Pass. Sony's first-party titles from the likes of Naughty Dog, Santa Monica Studio, and Insomniac are all exemplary gaming experiences - which is why many of them have maintained their monetary value, and why remasters and "collection" sets continue to sell like hotcakes.
Alternatively, Xbox has shown such faith in the opposite market that their grandest titles of the year are going straight to a streaming service for players to engage with at the drop of a hat - Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and Psychonauts 2 all gave players the option to duck the up-front fee and came to an audience who otherwise wouldn't be willing to pay AAA prices for them.
So, the question beckons - is PlayStation really willing to risk losing huge sales for their best long-standing titles? And even more prescient, are they willing to allow upcoming titles from some of the most revered studios in the world go to a streaming service on day one, which has every right to fail completely?
Could The PlayStation Game Pass Competitor Buy Into The Game?
The next big move PlayStation can make to enter the streaming service domain with a big swing, is to buy up the next biggest studio on the market, very much inspired by Xbox's recent acquisition of Activision Blizzard. While it remains incredibly bleak to picture that a gaming company's best bet is to cannibalise, monopolise, and mobilise to this degree, but AAA gaming has been a space domineered by capitalism for many years now, and more than ever before, the polygonal plutocracy is unavoidable. This doesn't, however, have to make things harder for the consumer.
Many have already speculated that EA or Ubisoft could now be in Sony's crosshairs (despite them being panicked and with shaky breath), but they're already likely to be in Xbox's pocket. With EA Play being attached to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service, and with Ubisoft+ announced to be arriving on Xbox consoles in the future, they'll take some convincing and some big bags of paper to talk them around, especially as Xbox just dropped almost $70 billion on a company that has had some of gaming's worst press over the last year.
Aiming down Take-Two Interactive (with Zynga in tow, thanks to their recent merger) for Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead franchises would be a worthwhile, if monumentally expensive, undertaking that could change their standing - but frankly, this doesn't seem much like PlayStation's style. Of course, a massive purchase could put Project Spartacus on par with Game Pass, but unless Sony is willing to lay out hundreds of billions for the sake of a single service, it's just not going to happen.
So, it seems that PlayStation is running out of options.
What Can The PlayStation Game Pass Competitor Really Do?
The best thing PlayStation can do to hold off against Game Pass is simple - keep doing what PlayStation does best, with a more accessible way to do so.
Sony has a remarkable wealth of games from the PlayStation line of consoles that are simply rotting in a hard drive somewhere, and a focus on bringing them back to life could finally give them an angle against Xbox - offering the ultimate PlayStation experience.
They're simply too late to compete with numbers and fresh third-party titles, so why should they waste their time with it? Players have, so far, bought Xboxes to feed their inner casual, pick-up-and-play gamers, and they've bought PlayStations for the remarkable individual experiences that Sony's first-party developers can create. With God of War: Ragnarok, Marvel's Spider-Man 2, and Marvel's Wolverine on the way, there are potentially era, genre, and platform-defining games coming, and as long as Sony doesn't lose sight of that, then PlayStation will always have something that Xbox doesn't.
There's no denying that PlayStation has taken a monumental hit from the Activision Blizzard deal with Xbox, and with the unprecedented success of Game Pass. But PlayStation can compete in its own way by not competing at all - as long as Project Spartacus puts the player first, offers some of the very best first-party titles at Sony's disposal, and don't charge too much for it, they'll win something in their own right.
PlayStation fans looking for something on Game Pass' scale from Sony are very likely to be disappointed - but Spartacus could be perfect for PlayStation users just as Game Pass has been perfect for Xbox users, with its own attributes and assets. Subscription services are best when they unlock their horns, and sit around the campfire singing kumbaya, and players are better off for it too.