That’s a pass from PlayStation supremo Jim Ryan.
In what is likely the most significant divergence in approach to the coming generation, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO and president Jim Ryan said in an interview with gamesindustry.biz that PlayStation won’t have its own first-party Xbox Game Pass-esque subscription equivalent for PlayStation 5 anytime soon.
“For us, having a catalogue of games is not something that defines a platform,” Ryan says. “Our pitch, as you’ve heard, is ‘new games, great games’. We have had this conversation before – we are not going to go down the road of putting new releases titles into a subscription model. These games cost many millions of dollars, well over $100 million, to develop. We just don’t see that as sustainable.”
This runs counter to Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s statements last year. In a podcast with Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb, he said: “The only concern I ever see people talking about is sustainability. I will say Game Pass right now is doing very well for us, and our developers, the people who are in it.”
He’s also denied that by releasing first-party titles they’ve been burning money. “We feel good in the business that we’re running now. We’re definitely investing in it, but not investing in a way that’s unsustainable.”
Xbox Game Pass is one of the most disruptive new business models right now in the industry, now reaching 15 million subscribers, up from 10 million as of the end of April 2020. This pales in comparison to the 90 million active users of Xbox Live, but speaks to the ultra-fast growth it’s seeing. It’s inspired others to follow suit, including Ubisoft with Uplay Plus, Apple with Apple Arcade and EA with EA Access. (Which itself is soon to be itself bundled with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate/PC subscription.)
Sony’s own Playstation Now, boasting just 2.2 million subscribers, has even incorporated downloads in response to the service.
Developers show mixed to cautious enthusiasm on such a service model. There are positive signs for third-party games, however. Games like Descenders, from UK publisher No More Robots, have seen massive sales boosts for being on the service due to increased visibility.
With the announcement of the acquisition of Bethesda by Microsoft today, one effect of this divergence in strategy might allow a switch from system exclusives on Xbox to availability on Game Pass at launch as a system selling point.