Sony takes aim at Xbox Game Pass with PlayStation Plus Video Pass

As the battle of subscription gaming services heats up, Sony appears poised to offer a new perk to PlayStation console owners: Sony movies with your Sony games.

A logo for a new service, dubbed PlayStation Plus Video Pass, is live on Sony’s servers as of this writing, and it was part of a Polish-language PlayStation promotion spotted by Video Games Chronicle before being taken down. The page in question suggested a two-day test run for this new service, available exclusively to subscribers of Sony’s paid PlayStation Plus service, on April 21-22.

While the description of the service was vague, merely mentioning PS Plus Video Pass and a date range, an attached image clarified what PlayStation console owners should expect: three recent films released by Sony Pictures Entertainment (Venom, Bloodshot, and Zombieland: Double Tap). PS Plus Video Pass thus might revolve around films from Sony-owned companies like Columbia Pictures and TriStar Pictures—but whether additional studios might participate, and exactly how films would be doled out to paying customers, remains unclear.

As VGC’s report reminds readers, this development follows Sony’s decision to stop selling individual films and TV series through the PlayStation Store beginning on August 31. When this decision was announced in March, Sony executives blamed a “shift in customer behavior,” primarily with streaming services, but it also mentioned “evolving our offerings.” That would imply replacing à la carte rentals and sales with something, especially since the PlayStation 5’s console menus devote a massive tab to “media,” and PS Plus Video Pass would fit that bill. Such a service might also keep the PlayStation Video app for smartphones and set-top boxes relevant once its à la carte purchases are disabled.

One of Ballmer’s bombs

Both Xbox and PlayStation offer $10–$15 subscription services that offer streamed and downloaded games for active subscribers. Currently, Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service trounces Sony’s options in terms of game selection, particularly “day-one” launches of first-party games. As a recent, wild example of the services’ disparity, Xbox Game Pass subscribers got access to the Sony-published MLB The Show 21 this week; PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now users cannot say the same.

But Xbox Game Pass currently has no ongoing video content to rival a potential Sony-run streaming film and TV service. Instead, Microsoft has offered selective trial subscriptions to third-party services as part of Game Pass’s “Perks” menu, including Spotify and Disney+—though this menu can go unnoticed by users, since it’s not baked into the console’s giant list of Game Pass games.

We’re reminded of Microsoft’s infamous attempt to rev up its own internal Xbox Entertainment Studios during the 2010s, with a Steven Spielberg-led Halo TV series leading that charge. Two years after its creation, the studio was shut down amid an executive shakeup following the departure of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer—and it became a massive about-face for the gaming division after Xbox One’s TV-focused and Kinect-first sales pitches bombed. Halo is still apparently coming to TVs near you, meanwhile, with Showtime developing a live-action series. We have to wonder whether Game Pass subscribers will wind up with Showtime subscription offers timed around its launch.

Listing image by Sony Interactive Entertainment