Sony has announced that its long-rumored PlayStation Spartacus service is actually an overhaul to its PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now subscription models. The two will now be merged under the PlayStation Plus banner, which will come in three tiers.
What's happening to PlayStation Now?
After reports indicated that the rumored PlayStation Spartacus service would soon be revealed, it looks like Sony has made its move. Over on the PlayStation Blog, Sony sets out its plans for an upcoming PlayStation Plus overhaul, which comes into effect in June. There will be three PS Plus tiers: Essential, Extra, and Premium. Sony says the Essential tier will be identical to the current PS Plus subscription (although it does mistakenly say that gamers currently only get two monthly games instead of three), with games to download, PlayStation Store discounts, and access to online multiplayer. That tier will cost you $9.99 per month, or $59.99 per year.
Things get interesting with the two new tiers, however. The Extra tier adds a catalog of "up to 400" PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 games, which will be a mixture of first-party titles and third-party games. You'll be able to download these games, so they're basically an extension of the current PS Plus Collection. This tier will set you back $14.99 a month, or you can pay for a whole year for $99.99. Finally, there's the Premium tier, which provides all benefits from the two previous tiers and adds the cloud streaming catalog from PlayStation Now. You'll also be able to stream games from the Extra tier that were previously available on PS Now. This tier also offers time-limited demos, so you can check games out before you buy them. You'll be paying $17.99 a month for this, with a $119.99 one-off payment for a whole year.
At launch, the new higher tiers will include games like Returnal, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Mortal Kombat 11. Sony says the library will be "regularly refreshed", so new games will be added (and presumably removed) on a regular basis. Sony's approach for the new service will be phased on a regional basis; first, the service will be introduced in Asia, followed by North America, Europe, and everywhere else PS Plus is available. The gaming giant says it's aiming to have the service live in "most" territories by the end of 2022's first half. In some territories where cloud streaming isn't available, the Premium tier will be replaced by PlayStation Plus Deluxe, which will cost less than Premium and will, instead of cloud streaming, include a collection of PS1, PS2, and PSP games to download and play.
Is this basically PlayStation Game Pass?
Although it's tempting to think of the new PlayStation Plus revamp as PlayStation Game Pass (and, indeed, that's how many people referred to Spartacus prior to this reveal), the two aren't quite the same. Although Sony says you can stream games on PC if you have the Premium tier, PlayStation games aren't natively available on PC as many Game Pass games are. In addition, first-party Sony games won't be available on day one via this subscription, even if you have the Premium tier. It would be fair, though, to think of this as Sony's Game Pass competitor, since it's about as close as we're going to get to having Game Pass on PlayStation.
It makes sense that Sony would want to introduce its own Game Pass-style subscription. Xbox Game Pass has been hugely successful for Microsoft and has proven beneficial for developers, too. The major differences between Sony and Microsoft's services might seem like deal-breakers to many, but Sony thinks there are good reasons not to include its first-party titles on day one. Sony Interactive boss Jim Ryan says putting PlayStation first-party titles on a subscription service on day one would break the "virtuous cycle" of investing in studios and delivering high-quality titles, which would then have a "knock-on effect" on PlayStation games' quality. We'll leave it to you to decide whether he's right about that.
The new PlayStation Plus subscription tiers come into effect this June, although we still don't have a concrete date yet. Sony also says it wants to expand its cloud streaming service to more markets, and the company says it'll reveal more about this ambition, as well as more about the three new tiers in general, in the near future. Stay tuned for more information.