Head of Xbox Phil Spencer has reacted to rumors that PlayStation is working on a service similar to Xbox Game Pass, saying that he sees it as “an inevitability” and is “the right answer” for how to get games to players.
Speaking to IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey, Spencer addressed the recent rumors, which have pointed to a new service codenamed Spartacus set to replace the existing PS Plus service.
“As you know,” Spencer began, “so many of these things actually intertwine with themselves, from [backwards compatibility] in terms of a way of building out a library of games that we have shipping on PC and console simultaneously […] knowing that Game Pass is gonna come and we wanna bring Game Pass to multiple platforms – all of these decisions kind of stack on top of themselves.
“I don’t mean it to sound like we’ve got it all figured out, but I think the right answer is allowing your customers to play the games they wanna play, where they wanna play them, and giving them choice about how they build their library, and being transparent with them about what our plans are in terms of our PC initiatives and our cross-gen initiatives and other things.
“So when I hear others doing things like Game Pass or coming to PC, it makes sense to me because I think that’s the right answer.”
Spencer continued by saying that he doesn’t see Sony’s apparent willingness to emulate Xbox’s bold approach as proof he and his team were right to push for Game Pass early – more that it’s proof that things were always going to go this way in the industry:
“I don’t really look at it as validation. I actually, when I’m talking to our teams, I talk about it as an inevitability. So for us, we should continue to innovate, continue to compete, because the things that we’re doing might be advantages that we have in the market today, but they’re just based on us going first, not that we’ve created something that no one else can go create.
“I like it because it feeds our energy on what are the next things that we should be working on as we continue to build out the things that we’ve done in the past. Because I think the right answer is to ship great games, ship them on PC, ship them on console, ship them on cloud, make them available Day 1 in the subscription. And I expect that’s what our competitor will do.”
In recent years, Spencer has spearheaded a few inititatives at Xbox that Sony appears to be coming around to a little later. In 2016, Microsoft announced the Xbox Play Anywhere scheme, which saw all Microsoft Studios games released simultaneously on Xbox and PC, with cross-play and cross-buy. In the last few years, Sony has begun increasing the number of PC ports it creates for PlayStation exclusives, even launching a PC brand and acquiring a PC port specialist.
Xbox has also slowly created a large catalog of backwards compatible titles, with many games from as far back as the original Xbox available to play with no impediment on Xbox Series consoles. While almost all PS4 games are backwards compatible on PS5, rumours have begun spreading that Sony is working on extending that to at least PS3 compatibility in future.
Xbox Game Pass has been Microsoft’s boldest and best received new idea in recent years, however, making a swathe of games (including all Xbox first-party exclusives) available as part of a single subscription fee. Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan previously said that PlayStation exclusives would not be put on a subscription service, but the recent Spartacus rumours point to a subscription catalog, and perhaps a more expensive tier that includes backwards compatible games.