As far as video game subscription services go, there are few as good as Xbox Game Pass. The service gives gamers access to a library of hundreds of games, plus Xbox Exclusive games on day one. Not to mention, it only costs $10 a month, and Microsoft regularly runs promotions where new subscribers can get Game Pass for as little as $1 a month. For most, it's a great service - one Sony has struggled to compete with.
Sony has PlayStation Now, its own take on a subscription . It's a sort of hybrid streaming service, allowing players to both stream and download games. Recently, Sony lowered the price of PlayStation Now to $10, making it much more competitive with Xbox's pricing. In addition, the company launched a new TV spot, a clear indication that it's trying to drum up more business for its subscription service. In another sense, this can be seen as Sony essentially pounding the war drum, as it is now actively trying to get a piece of the games-as-a-service pie.
As it stands, the subscription market is bloated. Not all of the services out there will survive the Netflixication of the games industry - PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass being the two most likely contenders for the last ones standing. But Game Pass has an incredible early lead against Sony, even with a much smaller install base. As it stands, PlayStation Now is no competition for Game Pass, though it can become one with the right moves.
The main drawback to PlayStation Now is the streaming itself. Not every game gives players the option to download it to the system, and PS Now can be a bit inconsistent for some depending on internet speeds. Meanwhile, Game Pass ensures that every game will be on the hard drive, making for a less convenient but more consistent experience. Luckily, Microsoft and Sony have partnered for better streaming infrastructure, so it's bound to improve with time.
Both services have incredibly strong line ups of games. At this point, both have libraries consisting of more than 200 titles, meaning that either will keep players engaged for quite some time. While there is quite a bit of overlap, Xbox has a few more standouts than Sony does, though neither is necessarily a bad value. For Xbox, this is largely due to the fact that Microsoft exclusives are available on the service day one, something Sony doesn't do.
For PlayStation to really be competitive with Xbox, it would need to adopt the same policy. But Sony has a much greater emphasis on exclusive games, which may make it difficult for the company to make that move. Still, memberships are a more consistent source of revenue in most cases, which is why so many companies are making the shift to subscription models. Sony may be worried that it will lose massive amounts of money by releasing its games day one to PS Now subscribers, but its possible it would wind up being the better option.
Either way, game subscriptions are only going to become more prevalent as time goes on. Sony is beginning to invest more heavily in the streaming side of things, and with a greater install base than Microsoft, that investment may just pay off. Last year, Sony reset the 7-day trial for PS Now, meaning that players have yet another opportunity to give the service a shot. Those that haven't checked it out may want to give it a try, as the service has improved significantly since then.
The next console generation presents a massive opportunity for Sony. With the PS5 now being announced, it can dedicate some time to its streaming service when it comes time to do a full-on reveal of the console. This would be Sony's best chance to put the service in the spotlight, opening it up to a much larger audience that may not have noticed it.
While it may be annoying to some, advertising the service more clearly is also a necessity. Of course, this is something Sony has already started doing. The PS Now logo has appeared on most PS4 home pages for some time, but there's been some more flashy advertising as of late, as major new titles like God of War and Uncharted 4 were recently added to the service.
There's still quite a ways to go, but Sony has a good chance to compete with Xbox's subscription. The next few months will be vital, especially leading up to the release of the PS5. But, with the right messaging and some strategical changes, PlayStation Now may be able to dominate the market.