Phil Spencer expects PlayStation to mirror Xbox Game Pass, including day-one games

Phil Spencer Xbox 20 Celebration
Phil Spencer Xbox 20 Celebration (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • In comments to IGN, Xbox lead Phil Spencer discussed the rumors "PlayStation Game Pass" service.
  • Spencer noted that he sees it as inevitable for Sony to match Xbox Game Pass on its features and services.
  • Sony is rumored to be building a similar service codenamed "Spartacus," but it has yet to be made official.

One of the biggest disruptions in gaming in recent years has been Xbox Game Pass, a service which offers hundreds of games on a relatively low monthly fee. Microsoft cuts deals with third-parties for their content, sometimes several months or years after launch. Occasionally, they also manage to nab someday one launched too, such as MLB The Show, Outriders, and the upcoming Rainbow Six Extraction.

The best part of Xbox Game Pass, potentially, is the fact Microsoft puts all its home-grown Xbox exclusives into the service on day one. That includes Forza Horizon, Halo, Gears of War, and upcoming ZeniMax games like Starfield, representing some truly absurd value for money.

Up until recently, none of Microsoft's primary competitors really competed with this, although rumors are swirling that PlayStation is gearing up for its own Xbox Game Pass competitor, codenamed Spartacus.

Speaking in comments to IGN, Xbox lead Phil Spencer said that he not only expects the rumors to be true, but inevitable, alongside the idea of Sony matching Xbox on day one game launches.

Xbox Game Pass

Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

Spencer emphasized that he doesn't want to claim Xbox has everything figured out with subscription serivces, but that he believes allowing gamers to experience their content wherever they want, whenever they want, is the right approach.

"... 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.""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."

As of writing, Xbox Game Pass has over 300 games in the service, with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers also getting access to EA Play games, alongside access to hundreds of games via cloud streaming. We expect that Microsoft will expand its Xbox Cloud Gaming service to smart TVs in the coming months, while also allowing gamers to play some or all of their digitally-purchased titles via the cloud too.

Xbox Game Pass has proven to be successful for Microsoft so far, although the service remains in a growth phase, with the bulk of profits being reinvested in content and growth. Services like Game Pass don't seem to cannibalize retail sales either, with Microsoft sharing its view that Game Pass can help stimulate retail sales, as gamers take advantage of exclusive discounts, and help virally market games via word of mouth.

Whether or not Sony will fully match the value being offered by Xbox Game Pass remains to be seen, but the passive income from subscribers cannot be understated. Sony has already begun porting games to PC such as God of War, much like Microsoft did in years past. Sony is exploring ways to monetize their legacy content in an era where it can't meet demand for its hardware. thanks to the ongoing semiconductor shortage. A full-blown PlayStation Game Pass subscription service does, indeed, seem inevitable. I suspect we'll find out the full details sooner, rather than later.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

27 Comments
  • Of course they will. Microsoft leading the way, revolutionizing the industry.
    Sony always thinking backwards, reacting late.
    Nothing lasts forever. Playstation is not going to be there forever.
  • It really was inevitable. I'm surprised it actually took this long. Game Pass truly is a no-brainer. It's a solid, sustainable model.
    The secret sauce of course being that all Xbox game studios games, from AAA to indie are day one on Game Pass. That's the key. It's not some second class, cheap subscription model. It's the real deal, nothing is held back. You get the best of what Xbox can create day and date.
    Game Pass subscribers don't feel like it's some low-effort means to maximize returns on legacy IP. That's the key component that separates it from the others - it's a premium service at a great price.
  • XBOX has a tradition of leading the way. It's the best way to lead the market.
    Built in broadband, HD Storage, HD video, achievements, subscriptions, etc, etc...
    They took their eye off the ball for a while but they seem to be back to their core values: be first, be best,be customer focused. As for Sony...shrug...
    They'll do whatever they want. The faithful will follow regardless.
    They survived the PS3 launch, they can survive anything.
  • Umm Pretty sure Sony started the cloud gaming trend and currently has more games/Value on PS Now. Not as many newer titles is all. Xbox hasn't really been innovative in any major way. It is easy to improve on someone else's ideas..
  • Ummm, pretty sure they didn't. I was doing this on PC in the 90's.
  • If Sony can't match Xbox's cloud gaming option, or match Xbox's PC game pass component, then I personally could not care less. Game Pass to me is about playing *where* I want.
  • Sony's big issue is: NO BACK END TO SUPPORT IT. They will have to spend HUGE money to purchase infrastructure to support his from AWS, Google, or (ahem) Microsoft Azure. It will be even MORE of a massive capital expenditure to try to build it out themselves globally, something that Sony, frankly, cannot afford to do either financially or technologically as building multiple geographic hosting N.O.C.s (Network Operating Centers) is a huge technical, legal, and financial issue (and all three of the other big players have 10-plus years head start on them.) It's funny. Microsoft offered SONY a true "sweetheart deal" to host "Playstation Network" in Azure dirt cheap about 6 years ago when Azure was starting to impact global hosting infrastructure, and SONY arrogantly refused to take the deal claiming (to paraphrase) "We don't need no stinking Global Infrastructure from the likes of YOU!" Now of course "Game Pass" is kicking Sony's a$$ globally and is consistently touted as THE REASON to go with MS gaming (Consoles and PC) even by the Sony Fan-boys. With their move into PC gaming releases, they have no choice but to partner with somone, and I bet it will be Microsoft in the end (heck, even Nintendo has gotten on-board with Azure Hosting.) Karma is a B#$%$! aint' it?
  • "They will have to spend HUGE money to purchase infrastructure to support his from AWS, Google, or (ahem) Microsoft Azure." I thought Sony already signed cloud game streaming deal with MSFT Azure early last year and there was this uproar of if this is good for Sony or not because they competitors.
  • MS believes in coopetition: cooperate in one area, grind'em to dust in another.
    Can't be too proud to make money if you want to get to $5T. 😏
  • Sony's Spartacus service is going to be absolutely insane if the rumored third tier is real with a library from every Sony console and handhelds. I am incredibly hyped for this there is so much potential because Playstation has had some crazy good games exclusive to it's platforms throughout the years.
  • I read it as he was talking more in general that they couldn't rest on their laurels because competitors (most not just Sony) would eventually do the same things like day one. I don't think he expects it to be a gamepass clone on day one, Sony would be smart to create a service with their own different service that plays to their strengths as a media and entertainment company.
  • Talk is they'll offer up some video streaming in one of their subscriptions.
    I hope they do. Really.
    And hype it to the hilt, the way they hyped the PS2 as a PC killer. 😏
    (Way back when, MS tried to buy Netflix. No go. They need an extra push to but into WB Discovery, which could really use the backing.)
  • Game Pass is a massive rip-off. Sony has better things to worry about than to try to match features with a console no one buys.
    Presently their priority is to actually be able to produce PS5's. I doubt they're losing sleep competing with a pseudo-competitor that isn't even a threat.
  • I would love to know how Game Pass is a rip off.
  • Well,it doesn't have a single Sony exclusive. And if that is the only thing that matters... 😱
    Sony faithful are *really* faithful.
  • I guess if you only play some crap like CoD and buy that every year, yeah then it would be a rip off, but if you play 2 big games per year then it equals out.
  • You also need to be right about the two games you buy: if one of them turns out an unplayable mess or a 5 hr bore you're out half your gaming budget.
  • For me it's all about the indie games, the blockbusters are just an added bonus. And I easily get 10-15 of those that I play throughout the year, things like Outriders, Halo Infinite or Mass Effect legendary edition I basically consider freebies.
  • Gamepass is fantastic value for money, ultimate gives me so many games to play on my series X and my PC... It is great service and let's me try genre's I wouldn't normally try... The series X is fantastic console too...
  • You are completely out of touch. Currently their priority is to make PS5? I guess you missed the news that they are still making the PS4? Console nobody buys? Both Sony and Xbox can't even make enough to supply demand and they have made more than ever. Try actually using an argument that isn't based on 2 year's ago logic.
  • LMAO! Way to back it up with facts. 12 million consoles sold and that's only because, just like Sony, supply can't match demand. Not to mention five game of the year contenders in 2021 with Flight Simulator, Age of Empires 4, Death Loop, Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite, not even counting Psychonauts 2, which was one of the best platformers of the year. If that's what a "pseudo-competitor that isn't even a threat" can do, I'd hate to see some real competition.
  • Wait a year.
    Let's see how low MS takes the SS or how hard they push All-Access.
    The competition isn't over winning over Plahstation fans, it's about winning over everybody else, especially those that can't or won't fork over $500 for a conso!e and $70 a game.
    Those ard legion.
  • It's a very calculated answer by Phil Spencer. He set the bar at day one releases for the Sony sub service which is something he knows Sony never wants to do. Now when Sony doesn't add their big first party games day one it looks bad. My guess is they will do something like EA play and add their first party games a year or so later. I think they'll also start adding all their big games to pc but never day one and probably not even until after they've been made available on the sub service for 6 months to a year.
  • Yup.
    He said "inevitably".
    (AKA, grudgingly.) Look at where Sony is today vs where they wanted to be:
    - Making new PS4s vs making nothing but PS5s
    - Shipping 15M PS5 vs 22M by march
    - Making new games for PS4 as well as PS5.
    - Making PS5 broadly BC, making old games run local vs only on the cloud, adding local PS3 game support (?)
    - Putting their exclusives on PC, even if just old games, one or two a year
    - Seeing MS selling 80% as many XBOXes as they do PS5s and lock down to GamePass double the number of gamers
    - Redoing their subscription strategy a year after launch instead of a year before launch. This is not the world they wanted; they are spending more money on Playstation and bringing in less mondy than planned. Their fanbase is loyal so they are in no danger of irrelevance but what is in danger is PS5 being the default lead development target for cross-plat third party games. If developers give XBOX primacy or even equal attention and *start* using the XBOX hardware features the PS5 lacks those games will start performing better on XBOX and no amount of software tweaking will let PS5 catch up, meaning they'll have to rush out a PS5 Pro by next year.
    More expense. Everything they're doing is answering MS successful moves.
    Playing defense.
    If all you do is defense you're surrendering leadership.
  • Microsoft isn't only successful moves, shutting down Xbox One production was incredibly stupid, especially since I can count on one hand the number of games that are actually restricted to the Series consoles. They kept the Xbox 360 in production for three years after the One came out. Sony has always maintained their older gen systems for a few years as well because the fact of the matter is, they continue to sell if they are available.
  • With the Series S there isn't really a reason to do that though.
  • He knows Sony can't do this. Sony can't lose money like Xbox did to make gamepass.