Xbox Game Pass is undoubtedly the ‘killer app’ for the Xbox Series X and indeed the Xbox One and Xbox One X. While Sony’s PS5 might have the edge with consoles exclusives, it currently has no real Game Pass rival. But that could change.
According to David Jaffe, the creator of God of War and co-creator of Twisted Metal, Sony is working on “a counterpunch” to Xbox Game Pass, reported VGC. What form that will take wasn’t revealed. But Jaffe said sources at Sony claim that the company’s PlayStation division is cooking up something to hit back at Microsoft’s service, which currently has some 18 million subscribers.
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But that’s no small undertaking, while Xbox Game Pass might have Xbox in its moniker, it’s more than just console service. Game Pass is available on Xbox consoles and PC, with the latter having been boosted to contain over 100 games. And if you have Xbox Game Pass Ultimate you can stream an increasing number of games to compatible Android devices, with game progress syncing between the cloud, Xbox consoles and PCs.
In my opinion, Xbox Game Pass is a fantastic deal and a must-have for any Xbox fan. Furthermore, a whole bevy of Xbox and PC exclusives are set to land on Game Pass over the next year or so. Plus, Game Pass now hosts EA Play games as well as Bethesda’s stellar cohort of games. As such, I’m racking my brain to how Sony could compete.
PlayStation Now streaming everywhere
If you have a PS Now subscription, you can stream some PS4 or older games to a PC or PS4. In fact, there are around 800 games you can stream, which on paper trumps Xbox Game Pass. But a lot of these are hardly stellar triple-A titles like those on Microsoft's service.
And while PS Remote Play to allow you to stream games from a PS5 or PS4 to an Android or iOS device, there’s no cloud-powered streaming to Android like Xbox Game Pass has.
Sony could solve this by expanding PS Now to cover a wider gamut of games, including new titles like Demon’s Souls and Spider-Man: Miles Morales. And it could add proper game streaming over cellular broadband.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Microsoft can afford to have triple-A games on Game Pass because it makes millions upon millions of dollars a month from it; 18 million users paying around $10 equals a hefty $180 million revenue a month. Whereas PS Now has some 2.2 million subscribers, a respectable if paltry amount when compared to Game Pass.
And having a robust streaming service isn't easy. Microsoft has an ace in the hole here with its Azure cloud platform, currently the second largest cloud infrastructure in the world, giving it the tech-plumbing to support game streaming at scale. The Redmond company is also a dab hand at software steaming given it has the cloud-based Office suite and other online services. So, Sony may struggle to catch up here.
But Sony could take a different route. Rather than provide a huge range of games on PS Now it could instead deliver a carefully curated library of PlayStation exclusive titles, something akin to the PS Plus Collection but with added smartphone streaming. I, for one, would love to be able to play short bouts of Bloodborne on my smartphone when on a dull train journey. That's provided I don't end up hurling my phone across the carriage when the second-phase of the Father Gascoigne boss fight causes “YOU DIED” to flash up for the umpteenth time.
Phoning it in
Of course, trying to go head-to-head with Xbox Game Pass might not be the best idea for Sony. But a new job post for Head of Mobile at PlayStation Studios is looking for someone to "focus on successfully adapting PlayStation’s most popular franchises for mobile.”
Now I don’t want to say ‘God of War: Android Edition’ but I also don’t want to not say that. I need to temper my wild speculation, but I also see no reason why the likes of Santa Monica Studio couldn’t adapt God of War to run on a smartphone or tablet. Consider how gorgeous the God of War reboot is on the base PS4 and you can be fairly confident that the developers know how to extract gaming power out of hardware.
Some smartphone games showcase sophisticated graphical grunt thanks to the hardware found in the Oppo Find X3 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12. Given the Nintendo Switch uses what’s effectively mobile hardware and somewhat long-in-the-tooth silicon, yet still manages to run the likes of The Witcher 3 and Doom Eternal, I’d be quietly confident an iPhone 12 Pro Max could run a less-graphically lush version of Bloodborne or Uncharted.
Having such games that could then sync up with Sony's high-fidelity console counterparts, or even companion games that complement full-fat console titles, could give the company an extra string to its gaming bow to claw attention away from Game Pass.
This is some wishful thinking from my tired mind. But Sony is tipped to be working on some interesting stuff, so it’s not beyond the realms of imagination.
In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with waiting for more PS5 exclusive games like Deathloop and Horizon Forbidden West to keep my gaming attention PlayStation-centric.