Sony, makers of the PS4 gaming console, might be dashing any hopes Xbox One owners ever had of listening to their Spotify subscription while gaming without keeping an earphone plugged into their smartphone. This morning, Spotify and Sony announced PlayStation Music, a new joint system that’ll let PS4, PS3 and Xperia smartphone owners stream from Spotify’s catalog long after Sony has killed its own service.
Sony announced PlayStation Music on its PlayStation Blog this morning. When it launches this new PlayStation Music area will be how PS4 users stream from Spotify on their console. Sony says it and Spotify have a number of different features planned, but one of them is playing music in the background while a game is running.
Sony partnering with Spotify is interesting for a number of reasons. First, Spotify is the world’s largest subscription music service. It has over 30 million songs and is pretty much synonymous with subscription music at this point. In fact, it’s so big that Apple felt it needed to compete directly with Spotify by adding iTunes Radio and last year’s update to the iPhone and iPad.
Sony’s PlayStation Blog post says that it plans to detail what features will be available “exclusively through Spotify on PlayStation Music.” It also describes Spotify as PlayStation Music’s “exclusive partner.” Some are interpreting this as the PS3 and PS3 only offering Spotify for the foreseeable future. That’d definitely be a big blow to the Xbox One, which only offers Pandora and its own Xbox Music service. Sony hasn’t yet clarified that part of the announcement yet, so we’re a bit unsure at the moment.
Second, Sony has spent the last few years pushing its own subscription music service called Sony Music Unlimited. With this deal announced, Sony Music Unlimited is being discontinued in each of the 19 countries that already support it. Sony Music Unlimited lets users stream songs directly to their console or Xperia smartphone. The company is effectively shutting down Music Unlimited immediately, from February 28th until March 29th users who already have a Music Unlimited subscription will get to stream as much as they want free of charge. The service will close permanently on March 30th.
Sony shutting down Music Unlimited will be seen by most as a way to help stave off financial losses. All told, Sony killing the service isn’t exactly bad for its users. Spotify, is available in more countries and has a much larger library than Sony Music Unlimited ever did. What’s more, Spotify is completely cross-platform, which is exactly what PS4 owners and Sony needs. Sony gets to guarantee its PS4 users an exclusive experience with specific features and already have companion apps and an ecosystem with millions of playlists already available.
In fact, the only losers here seem to be owners of Microsoft’s Xbox One. For years they’ve been able to stream and download music for $10 a month through Zune and Xbox Music. At best Spotify will have features that are exclusive to the PS4. At worse, Spotify won’t come to the Xbox One at all. This a big hole in Microsoft’s entertainment offerings. Xbox Music has millions of songs for users to stream, but it’s not nearly as robust as Spotify. There’s very little in the way of curated music playlists. It’s app for Microsoft’s own Windows Phones is still clunky. Xbox Music on iPhone and Android is outright travesty.
No one is arguing that potential Xbox One buyers might decide to pick up a PS4 just because it has Spotify, but it could push those who were on the fence into buying into Sony’s ecosystem instead of Microsoft’s.
The PS4 is on store shelves now for $399. Sony says PlayStation Music with Spotify will arrive in the Spring.