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Sony May Combine Exclusive Games, Video Streaming in Fight Against Game Pass

Sony is betting big on exclusives like Horizon Forbidden West to get players into the PlayStation ecosystem.
Sony is betting big on exclusives like Horizon Forbidden West to get players into the PlayStation ecosystem. / Photo courtesy of Guerilla Games/Sony

Xbox Game Pass's growing popularity has Sony looking to bolster its new user acquisition strategies. The company appears ready to double down on exclusive games, and it's testing a new TV and movie streaming perk for PlayStation Plus Subscribers.

Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan says the PlayStation 5 will have more exclusive games than any previous generation of Sony console.

Ryan told Nikkei (translated by VGC) that Sony has invested more in first-party developers with the explicit purpose of creating a healthy stable of exclusive titles.

"We have been quietly but steadily investing in high-quality games for PlayStation, and we will make sure that the PS5 generation will have more dedicated software than ever before," Ryan said.

Ryan also said Sony may acquire more studios to continue growing its roster of developers.

“We have repeatedly engaged in mergers and acquisitions, including Insomniac Games in the US," he said. "We will not rule out that option in the future.”

The PlayStation 2 had nearly 483 total platform-exclusive games, while the PS3 had around 67.

Console exclusives are one of the oldest user acquisition tactics in the console wars, but they've become even more important for Sony as it competes with Microsoft's value-based Xbox Game Pass. Although Sony does offer some free games to PlayStation Plus subscribers, it's nothing on the scale of freebies offered through Game Pass.

Of course, despite Game Pass's growing popularity, the PS5 has become the fastest selling console in history even amid myriad manufacturing struggles. Part of that likely has to do with its launch exclusives, which included Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Spider-Man: Miles Morales and the Demon's Souls remake. Its next exclusive, Returnal, launches April 30, and more high profile exclusives, such as Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarök, are slated for release later this year.

It's possible — perhaps even likely — some of those big releases will be delayed because of knock-on effects from the COVID-19 pandemic. Those delays would mark a significant missed beat for the PS5, and Sony appears to be exploring other strategies for user acquisition. The company is now testing a PlayStation Plus Video Pass in Poland that would allow users to stream more than 20 movies and TV shows from Sony Pictures as part of their PS Plus subscription.

Sony Interactive Entertainment's global services vice president Nick Maguire told Polish site Spider's Web (translated by VGC) the company chose Poland as its test case based on specific data, but declined to share specifics.

"At this stage, however, I cannot say whether it will be created and what the test process will look like for other markets, as well as what the future is for PlayStation Plus Video Pass after the test period," Maguire said.

Sony has a significant presence in the film and TV industries; it was only a matter of time before it leveraged those assets in the gaming space. But will its offerings persuade gamers to choose PlayStation Plus over Game Pass? The quality of the streaming options will play a part there, as will any redundancies with other streaming platforms. If most PlayStation Plus subscribers can already watch the movies on offer through Netflix, for example — which can already be streamed on the PS5 — getting access to them a second time is a pretty negligible value add.

We'll get a clearer picture of the Plus Video Pass's effectiveness when the year-long test ends.