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What is Spartacus? Everything we know about PlayStation’s answer to Xbox Game Pass

Playstation 5 controller with Playstation Plus Collection on screen, selective focus.
(Image credit: Miguel Lagoa | Shutterstock)

Ever since Microsoft launched Xbox Game Pass, rumors and speculation have been swirling that Sony would launch a competing service. A year after the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, we’re now hearing rumblings of just such a subscription service,

Sony is reportedly working on a new subscription service that will compete directly with Xbox Game Pass. The news comes from Bloomberg, which states that Sony’s new subscription service — codenamed Spartacus — will offer PlayStation fans the same type of experience as Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, according to documents provided to Bloomberg by anonymous sources at Sony. 

The report doesn’t detail everything we can expect from Spartacus — and the source did claim things were subject to change — but there is some information that long-time PlayStation fans should be thoroughly excited about. 

Here’s everything we know so far about PlayStation’s upcoming subscription service, codenamed Spartacus.

What is Spartacus?  

Spartacus would compete directly with Xbox Game Pass, which is a subscription service from Microsoft that allows gamers to pay a monthly fee to access hundreds of games via Xbox or PC. This includes all first-party titles on day-one and a large variety of AAA and indie titles from third-party publishers.

In its reported effort to create a similar service, Sony would opt to merge its existing PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now plans into a single subscription under the former’s name. Under this theory, PlayStation Now would be phased out in order for Spartacus to take its place.

PlayStation Plus offers players access to competitive online gaming and a handful of free games each month, while PlayStation Now is a streaming and download service that features a selection of classic and modern games. Unfortunately for Sony, the latter’s high price and somewhat clumsy implementation has consistently held it back from becoming anywhere near as popular as Xbox Game Pass, which began the year with 18 million subscribers

Like PlayStation Now, Spartacus would include PS4 and PS5 titles for subscribers to play, but it's also said to feature access to a much larger selection of classic games from PS1, PS2, PS3 and PSP. It’s also expected to expand PlayStation cloud gaming and offer a variety of demos.

What will Spartacus cost?

Pricing hasn’t been revealed for Spartacus, but the documents obtained by Bloomberg do outline three planned tiers of the service. Again, these are subject to change.

The first tier would be the standard PlayStation Plus subscription, which, as of right now, is $60/year. This would continue to grant players the ability to play their games online and download a handful of free titles Sony gives away with the service each month.

The second tier would expand upon PlayStation Plus by adding a collection of PS4 and eventually PS5 titles. It isn’t confirmed whether this would include day one availability of first-party titles on the service, though Sony has never been too fond of that idea in the past.

The third tier would add in access to a growing catalog of classic PS1, PS2, PS3 and PSP games. It would also bring streaming and more substantial demos to the service.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any information on the pricing of the final two tiers, nor is it known at this point if Sony will provide players with an opportunity to purchase any of these features separately from PlayStation Plus.

At the moment, our best guess is that Sony would want to stay close to Game Pass’ current pricing to remain competitive. Currently, Game Pass costs $9.99/month for console or PC only, and doesn’t include Xbox Live, which grants users the ability to play online. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate costs $14.99/month and does allow users both PC and console play, as well as Xbox Live access. Generally, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is seen as the better overall value.

Currently, PlayStation Plus costs $9.99/month. We wouldn’t be surprised if Sony sticks to this price for the base tier of Spartacus. As for the second and third tier, Sony will likely charge more. How much more is anyone’s guess. We’d be surprised if the third tier, which includes Sony’s back catalogue of classic PlayStation content, were to exceed $14.99/month. 

When is the Spartacus release date?

Seeing as Sony hasn’t formally announced Spartacus, there’s no way to be entirely certain when the company will finally share the news with the world, if even at all. However, the Bloomberg report claims that the service is anticipated to go live in the first three months of 2022.

Spartacus outlook 

Spartacus is shaping up to be exactly what Sony needs to compete with Xbox Game Pass. Already, Xbox Game Pass is proving to be a huge value-add for Microsoft, and it’s only going to get more competitive as Bethesda’s suite of now-exclusive titles start hitting Xbox and PC, leaving PS5 gamers behind. 

Not only that, Xbox is finally gaining hold in Japan, a market that’s long eluded the American console maker. According to a recent report by The Gamer, one reason for the Xbox's newfound popularity there has to do with Game Pass. That said, given the limited knowledge we have about Sony’s new service, we can’t be sure if it will bring with it the same level of attention and care that Microsoft has given Game Pass.

Earlier this year, we explained how Game Pass worked and why it’s the future of gaming. Even then, it’s not quite growing at the rate Microsoft was expecting. While in January of this year, Microsoft did reveal it had 18 million subscribers, it missed its goal of growing by 48% in the fiscal year ending on June 30. So it’s still not entirely certain if the current Netflix model will necessarily work for gaming. It took Netflix a lot of time and resources to sit comfortably at 214 million paid subscribers.  

However, if Spartacus is priced reasonably and brings along a solid selection of retro titles for backward compatibility enthusiasts, there’s no doubt that Sony could very well take on Microsoft’s in the subscription pass arena.

Billy Givens is a journalist with nearly two decades of experience in editing and writing across a wide variety of topics. He focuses particularly on games coverage for Tom's Guide and other sites including From Gamers Magazine, Retroware, Game Rant and TechRaptor. He's also written for self-improvement sites such as Lifehack and produced in-depth analyses on subjects such as health, psychology and entertainment.