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Prediction: PlayStation Spartacus has Great Potential, But It’ll Disappoint

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The video game industry is not immune to the constant emergence and disappearance of new technological advancements and trends. We have grown past the cartridge era and moved into the disc forms of interactive entertainment, and even that already has one foot out the door. The digital marketplace has replaced (or will replace) discs, which has also led to the emergence of streaming. Everywhere we look, there is a new streaming service from Game Pass to Ubisoft Plus to EA Play.

Xbox Game Pass has over 25 million subscribers, which is not surprising since it has over 100 titles, including day one releases of Microsoft’s biggest games like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. While Xbox sprints into the future, PlayStation relies on old tricks, boasting the exclusivity of premium, Triple-A games from well-established developers. Honestly, though, now that Xbox is ramping up its exclusivity lineup with the likes of Starfield and Redfall assumedly being day one, free releases for Xbox Game Pass, it is getting harder and harder to encourage anyone to buy a PlayStation.

That is not to say the PlayStation 5 is a mediocre console or its games are lackluster; it is more of a practical argument since Xbox Game Pass is an easier pull ($15.00 a month for 100s of quality games) as compared to buying PS5 games ($70 each). The folks at Sony know this, and they know the tides of the industry are shifting to the service model. It is rumored that PlayStation is finally stepping into the future with project Spartacus. The project supposedly combines PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now into one game streaming service with three different tiers. The thing about Spartacus is that it is sitting on a shiny pedestal, destined to catapult Sony into the future. While Sony fans have been waiting for this announcement, in reality, it is not going to be as good as we had hoped.

PlayStation has a lot to live up to since Xbox Game Pass is a huge success, and top-notch games continue to be added to the service every month. They are entering a race where the competitor has a whole lap lead. When I think about Spartacus, I see two roads stretching ahead of me. One leads to a haven of iconic PlayStation games at one low price where the biggest day one exclusive titles fall into the gamer’s hand, no strings attached. It is a place where you can play games from all across the PlayStation era with a frame rate upgrade to boot. The other road leads to bureaucracy, greediness, and overcomplicated guidelines. Here, there is a small library of outdated games for an overpriced monthly cost with no backward compatibility or day one releases insight. 

I foresee PlayStation Spartacus leaning towards the latter, darker road, ultimately, undermining its great potential. Spartacus is unlikely to be able to grasp what we imagine as the PlayStation Game Pass. A dream that is not unjustified.

When I think of PlayStation, I think of iconic games. When I think of Spartacus, I think about all these iconic games in one place. Consider the years of award-winning projects that have come out of PlayStation Studios, both big and small. I immediately think about The Last of Us and Uncharted, which are both award-winning franchises, and PlayStation stables. There are smaller titles like Journey, Concrete Genie, and Dreams that help diversify PlayStation’s offerings with creative and beautiful implementation. There are long gone franchises like Killzone and Resistance and even older titles like Twisted Metal and Shadow of the Colossus. This is not even considering what is to come like Horizon Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7, God of War Ragnarok, and a slurry of unannounced projects from talented studios. The idea of providing all of these games, and more, into one streaming service, well, that is the dream. Consider having the full catalog of PlayStation titles available to you, and when a new game, like God of War Ragnarok, comes out, you get it on day one as part of the service. 

Unfortunately, that is only the potential, not the reality of the situation. PlayStation Spartacus has been done a disservice by being called names like Game Pass competitor and Game Pass rival. We are making PlayStation Spartacus into something it is not. There is no way that Spartacus will reach Xbox Game Pass levels of consumer satisfaction right out of the gate. Microsoft has had five years to perfect and expand its streaming service into what it is today. If you expect Xbox Game Pass out of PlayStation Spartacus, you are going to be wildly disappointed. 

This all begs the question: what is PlayStation Spartacus? If we take the rumors at face value, then it is simply an integration of PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus. PlayStation Now has several PS2, PS3, and PS4 games to stream, and PlayStation Plus offers free games every month. Note that those free games will never include, for example, Horizon Forbidden West on day one. Paul Tassi from Forbes argues that PlayStation Spartacus is more of a rebranding than a competitive streaming service, and it is difficult not to agree with him. Let us take a look at Spartacus’ tier structure to see how exactly it will disappoint.

If the rumors are true, players will have access to all PlayStation Plus benefits at the first tier. PlayStation Plus is not a game catalog (unless you count the PlayStation Plus Collection, but that is only 20 older PS4 games). Plus includes a few free games every month, online multiplayer access, and PlayStation Store discounts. That is not Game Pass; it is just PlayStation Plus as it is right now. The first tier of Game Pass is already much better because it actually offers access to a streaming service, something Spartacus is putting behind a more expensive tier. 

The second tier is more of what we can expect from a streaming service: a catalog of PS4 games, but even that sounds somewhat limited. Again, the first tier of Xbox Game Pass has a catalog of 100 games across multiple generations: a first tier that is so much better than Spartacus’ second tier. Along with these PS4 games, the second tier will also have some PS5 games with the caveat of “eventually.” That is the biggest indication that Spartacus will not have day one PS5 games. Sony wants to keep that $70 price tag for God of War Ragnarok and, I can assume, will wait five years before adding it to Spartacus via a free PlayStation Plus game. The last tier finally accomplishes what we think of as PlayStation Game Pass…if we squint. It brings PS2, PS3, and PSP games into the fold (I guess the Vita never existed), but it still fails on several fronts. These older titles probably won’t get an FPS boost, there won’t be multiple access points via a PC and PS4, and the catalog will be limited, especially with the growing number of properties that Microsoft now owns. 

PlayStation will need to dive into the streaming service paradigm someday, and this current iteration of Spartacus is not the deep dive we are expecting; it is more like a small step in the right direction. Through trial and error, it may grow into something special. However, as of right now, Spartacus seems to be an amalgam of two existing services, rather than the alternative to Game Pass we hope it will be. 

Stay tuned at Gaming Instincts via TwitterYouTubeInstagram, and Facebook for more gaming news.

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