Last month, we looked at what the start of this new year means for PlayStation. This month, we’re looking to PlayStation’s online services, and what the hell this whole Project Spartacus thing is about.
The point is that we’ve had both services available now for some time, and they are both (PlayStation Plus more so) ingrained into the PS culture.
So then what is this Project Spartacus? A combination of the two it seems, with a library of games available to both download and stream, all bundled into the cost of playing online and getting free monthly games?
That could be it – but there’s the three tiered system to consider, with the highest tier granting access to a library of classic titles, whatever that means.
All of this potentially coming together in one service is exciting, but that is no reason for me to get my hopes up. Even if the dream of what this service could be is, very enticing.
Project Spartacus, And The Service That Could Be
The big problem I’ve always had with PlayStation Plus is that I have to pay to play online with my friends. I know that’s a more than accepted practice, but it’s really the only thing about the service I wish wasn’t there.
I like the free games each month, and I like the steeper discounts on top of sales prices. But paying for online has, and always will, suck.
PlayStation Now on the other hand, has more than just the one glaring issue. It’s been the sum of its failures that has led to a lacking subscriber count for most of its lifespan, and even now with Sony focusing on it more the service still struggles.
What’s more, is that though you can download the PS2 games available, that library is abysmally small compared to the potential software library available on the PS2.
PS3 games cannot be downloaded at all, and this is perhaps PS Now’s biggest failure.
While I understand that getting PS3 games to run on modern hardware is technologically more complicated due to everything on PS3 being made for the CELL processor, the service has never felt complete having these titles as “stream only”.
Maybe if the streaming quality was more consistently reliable, this would feel like less of an issue. But not being able to download PS3 games is to my mind one of the services biggest failures.
Then there’s the fact of the matter that despite PlayStation’s long history and vast library of IP to choose from, even classic first party titles fail to make it onto the service at all.
While it will still provide new PlayStation players an instant library of games to cycle through, what you get for the entire cost of the subscription is not worth it when these issues have continued to persist for years.
This new Project Spartacus could be something to change all of that. Not in reality, but there is a ‘dream’ version of this service that I think could not only be great for fans, but much more beneficial to Sony in the long-term.
In my dream, Project Spartacus is a con-joining of both PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now. It’s called whatever the hell Sony wants to call it, and we still have the three tiers of subscriptions, as is currently rumoured.
However how these tiers function will essentially be the differentiating factor. Firstly, of course in my dream the cost of playing online is waved for all players.
Secondly, the first/cheapest tier would then grant you your free monthly games, better discounts on sales, and game trials. The second tier is where a library of downloadable PS5/PS4 games are made available, while the third includes classic libraries of games from the PS3, PS2, PS1, PSP, and PS Vita.
The clincher is, as you may have guessed, that these games are not just available to play via streaming, but can all be downloaded and played on your console, no streaming required.
It doesn’t feel like too much of an ask, and with the effort that Microsoft has put into backwards compatibility, it makes it all the more disheartening to see PlayStation’s history erode, seemingly due to a lack of effort and care.
All first party classic PlayStation titles would also be available in my dream. They should be available in PS Now as it currently is, but even a series like Ratchet & Clank is left woefully incomplete for subscribers.
Lastly, my dream includes better quality streaming. I believe having it as a choice is still key for many players and their habits, and in 2022 it needs to be much better than it is.
With that kind of commitment towards both a modern library of games and a classic library, Sony would set a new precedent for itself, while slowly gaining much of the fan trust they’ve recently lost.
I call that ideal my ‘dream’, not because I don’t think Sony can do it of course, but simply that it won’t. Just like I know I’ll always be paying to play online on PlayStation.
Sony’s already tried to do away with the PS3 and PS Vita digital storefronts, and have already made it more difficult to purchase games on said stores after they stopped supporting sales via credit cards for each platform.
What’s more is that simply streaming a game is less complicated than allowing a downloaded version to be available, especially in the PS3’s case. It’s doubtful Sony wants to put the effort into creating PS5 and PS4 compatible versions of hundreds of PS3, PS2, PS1 and PSP titles.
Then there’s the reality that streaming, whether you may like it or not, is becoming a larger part of the gaming sphere.
Microsoft are clearly making a push to own the ground Sony has failed to cover since PS Now launched in 2014, and Sony does need to stay competitive within the space.
What better way than to just make all classic titles stream only, regardless of compatibility issues that may or may not have come up. Even for games that we can download now, if they’re pre-PS4 I wouldn’t be surprised if they turn to being streaming only.
For a long time PlayStation fan, it would be deeply disheartening to see. PlayStation is an integral part of gaming’s history and culture, and Sony should be the first ones to aim at preserving it rather than deleting it.
PS Now, and whatever Project Spartacus will be have the opportunity to keep PlayStation’s history alive for new generations. Not everyone will be able to track down original hardware to play classic titles.
Without a strong, committed effort towards backwards compatibility and game preservation, emulation will continue to be only option for many players to experience the games that in part helped build this industry – and emulation still may not work in for one reason or another in any case.
It shouldn’t be this tough for people to play old games, and the parts of PlayStation’s history that helped define it should be celebrated in their original format, not just through a select few remasters and remakes.
I want the games I grew up with to be easily accessible for new players. I want the parts of gaming’s culture that helped it grow be around for years to come, and be re-livable at any time on the current console generation.
We can’t continue to rely on anecdotal collectors preserving the few copies of rare titles available. These games were meant to be played, and it’s clear we need a better solution.