Sony just dropped a huge hint its PS5 Game Pass rival is on the way

DualSense controller in front the PlayStation Plus logo
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Update: When will Spartacus arrive? The latest rumor is we may get the first official details by the end of February.

It’s emerged this week that Sony has begun pulling PS Now subscription cards from U.K. retailers. While a reshuffle of the gaming giant's retail offering typically wouldn’t be noteworthy, this could be our biggest hint yet that its PS5 Game Pass rival, rumored to be codenamed Spartacus, is indeed coming this year. 

This story was originally reported by Venturebeat after Sony contacted its retail partners in the U.K. instructing them that all PS Now cards should be pulled from store shelves. Retailers started doing the same thing in the U.S. a few weeks ago. It would appear that Sony is no longer interested in selling PS Now subscriptions in physical stores, and most signs point to Spartacus as the reason.  

When quizzed on the decision to put PS Now cards from retail a PlayStation representative said: “Globally, we are moving from PlayStation Now gift cards to focus on our current cash denomination PlayStation gift cards, which can be redeemed for PlayStation Now.” However, there definitely appears to be more to this move than this statement would suggest.  

After the initial report surfaced, Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier confirmed that the move was part of Sony’s preparation for the launch of Spartacus and also went on to speculate about the service's potential release date saying, “April wouldn’t be unexpected.” It would seem that the rumors surrounding Sony’s own Game Pass rival for the PS5 are indeed accurate and the service could be officially revealed in the coming weeks.

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Details about PlayStation’s answer to Game Pass first surfaced last December. The service will reportedly merge PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now into a single subscription, with the latter then being phased out entirely, and will give users access to not only a selection of PS5 and PS4 games but also PS1, PS2, PS3 and even PSP titles. 

No pricing information has been released yet, but according to Bloomberg, the service will be split into three tiers. The first tier would be a standard PlayStation Plus subscription, offering the ability to play online and download a small selection of rotating monthly games. The second tier would add an additional collection of PS4, and eventually PS5, games whereas the third level would give you all of that plus access to games from the classic Sony systems mentioned above. 

Regularly touted as “the best deal in gaming” Xbox Game Pass has got from strength to strength in 2021, with a number of high profile titles launching on the service including Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. Microsoft reported Game Pass had 18 million subscribers in January 2021, and it’s natural that Sony would feel the need to offer competition in this space. 

While we don’t expect Sony to launch high-profile exclusives such as Horizon Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7 and God of War Ragnarok on its own Game Pass style service, leaning into PlayStation’s enviable back catalog of classic games would be a smart move from Sony. 

Adding even more fuel to the fire, PS3 games were recently spotted on the PlayStation Store on PS5. Although, it's believed this was just a visual glitch and not an indication that additional backwards compatibility features are coming to the console. Despite this disappointment, we're still hoping the full unveiling of Spartacus is just around the corner.   

Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.