Does PlayStation Need to Compete with Game Pass?
Sony’s strategy could be imminent.
As we roll past the five year anniversary of Microsoft’s announcement of Xbox Game Pass, the closest we’ve seen to a rebuttal from Sony appears to be imminent. Despite their comparatively weak cloud offering, rumors have been piling up lately about Sony’s foray into cloud gaming and its offering of a standing digital library of games, in what seems to be an effort to compete with Microsoft’s Game Pass offering. To this point, there has been very little information beyond rumors, albeit from credible sources, so we still await Sony’s first move in launching a new model for game consumption.
With talk of Sony’s offering continuing to buzz, the question becomes: does Sony really need to compete with Xbox’s Game Pass?
Although I think the instinctive answer would be yes, I wonder if we should consider more of the context first.
Since the debut of the Xbox, Sony and Microsoft have been in direct competition. It was a little after Microsoft’s introduction to the console gaming stage that Nintendo slowly began to cleverly withdraw from the competition, creating a two horse race rather than three. The decision paid off as Nintendo largely plays its own game now, appealing to a different and usually overlapping audience to Sony’s and Microsoft’s.
In a similar vein, Sony may feel that it’s time to stop competing directly with Xbox, and instead provide a different offering to players. But it’s a difficult sell. Microsoft’s Xbox is quickly becoming the best place to play titles that are available across both platforms with its versatility, cost effectiveness, and power — in all respects beating out Sony’s PS5. In many ways, Microsoft has already made the decision to pivot away from direct competition with Sony — so now Sony’s choice becomes to try to match them, or to set a different course.
Much of the PS5’s sway comes from the legacy it has built up over the last couple of generations as the exclusive machine. It’s the console people buy to have the chance to play some of the best blockbuster games that are available. And for the millions of gamers who can only own one of the two major, competing consoles, a few exclusive games is enough to sway them one way or the other when the differences in performance are so minor.
But budget-friendly consumers will be hard-pressed to ignore the financial sway that the cheapest Xbox console and Game Pass can provide.
So where does Sony fit in? As we stand now, Microsoft has both the most powerful and the most budget friendly machines and has recently bought some of the biggest third-party developers in the industry — things have changed quite dramatically over the last few years.
And, to be honest, I don’t think acquiring a huge new studio is even viable, let alone wise for Sony whose reputation as an industry-defining, blockbuster-producing developer speaks for itself. Sony has the ability to accomplish a feat similar to Nintendo’s in offering a unique package that is compelling alongside or instead of Microsoft’s, rather than in direct competition.
Does Sony need an Xbox Game Pass competitor to keep up with the pace of the industry? I don’t think so. I think there’s a very viable path forward that only strengthens the quality of Sony’s current offerings.
Only time will tell what Sony’s response will be, but in the meantime, I’ll be playing Horizon on my PlayStation.