Since it launched in 2017, Xbox Game Pass has been a thorn in Sony’s side, offering Xbox owners a slew of top-tier games for the cost of a $10 monthly subscription. The addition of 20 Bethesda games makes the service an even better value, and although Sony has dismissed the idea of a direct rival for the PS5 in the past, it looks like the company may be rethinking its approach.
That’s according to David Jaffe who, as creator of God of War and a former PlayStation employee with 14 years’ service, is pretty well connected to Sony decision makers.
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In a video published on his YouTube channel, Jaffe stated that the company could be working on a “counterpunch to Game Pass,” in a section where he talked about Sony Interactive Entertainment boss Jim Ryan’s prospects at the company.
“I’ve said time and again that people who are writing Jim Ryan’s obituary are way premature,” Jaffe said. “We had the guy on the show yesterday that had made the petition to fire Jim Ryan and I was like, ‘dude, that’s way premature’ because Jim Ryan doesn’t owe anybody, Sony doesn’t owe anybody, the truth about what’s coming and what their counterpunch to Game Pass is.
“What I can tell you is I know they are doing some stuff because I know people at Sony who have told me that they are doing some stuff,” he continued. "There will be a response to Game Pass. What it is, we don’t know.”
The question is whether Sony will do things by halves, or fully commit to the same kind of top-tier experience that Xbox Game Pass offers. And on that point, Jaffe is less clear.
“Here’s what I would say I worry about,” Jaffe continued. “If Jim Ryan thinks the proper response to Game Pass is to emulate backwards compatibility, PS3 games, PS2, PS1, and then to also add Trophies, which is what that patent suggests they’re going to do, and they’re also going to fold in all the movies and shit and make a streaming service, he’s absolutely wrong if he thinks that mixing it with PS Now [is the right approach].
“That would make me go, ‘I don’t think the man has a clue’, because that’s not going to compete with Game Pass, but I don’t know if that’s the case.”
It’s hard to argue with that. While Xbox Game Pass does contain plenty of older titles dating back to the original 2001 Xbox — some of which now work on smartphones — that’s more of a bonus than the key appeal, which is the presence of all first-party Microsoft produced games on the day of release. Whether it’s a new Halo title, a Gears of War game or the next Fallout or Elder Scrolls, Game Pass subscribers are guaranteed to get access on the day of release as part of their subscription.
In the past, Sony has seemed hesitant to follow this approach. In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz last September, Ryan claimed this wouldn’t be compatible with the PlayStation business model. “We are not going to go down the road of putting new releases titles into a subscription model,” he said, which sounds pretty unequivocal. “These games cost many millions of dollars, well over $100 million, to develop. We just don't see that as sustainable.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Sony couldn’t try and incentivize games from third-party studios to join a subscription service, and Ryan’s comments — if they’re still current — notably only talk about “new releases”. Sony has been more free and easy with older titles, going as far as to offer 18 of the best PS4 games to early adopters of the PS5 under the banner of the PS Plus Collection.
Hopefully, this points to something bold from Sony in the near future to ensure those who were previously eying up Xbox Series X stock have a tougher decision on their hands over which console to buy this generation.
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