Popular music streaming service Spotify has just launched its first-ever games console app - and it's exclusive to Sony's PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 for the time being.
"PlayStation have gaming exclusivity," Murray Pannell, UK marketing director for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, confirmed to Eurogamer at a preview of the app last week. And how long does the exclusivity period last? "That's to be decided exactly," he confessed, "but certainly for the foreseeable."
At a time when media-streaming services such as Netflix are typically found on every connected console, the exclusivity deal is a minor coup for Sony. Spotify is a leader in digital music, with over 30m tracks available, 60 million active users and an impressive 15 million paying subscribers. The deal effectively calls time on Sony's own ambitions in music streaming, with the Spotify app replacing the platform-holder's Music Unlimited service. The partnership "still means we're in music, but is also the foundation of our music strategy going forward," Pannell said. "It's going to be really good for us."
The Spotify app is available now - from 10am, Monday 30th March - in 41 markets worldwide, including the UK. It's free and most PS4 users will find it's on their consoles already, replacing Music Unlimited in the menu. It was a hidden background download in last week's system update.
The PS4 version of the app is integrated with the console at system level, enabling it to play music in the background of any gameplay, under dialogue and sound effects. (All games should be compatible with this feature, though some may require changing menu settings first. The PS3 app does not support it.) One of Spotify's most popular features is the ability to create and share playlists with friends and the wider Spotify community, and this seems like an especially good fit with the app's background play feature - enabling the gaming community to curate its own custom soundtracks for particular games and genres.
Alongside a full-screen app for browsing and controlling music playback, Spotify can be controlled from a micro-player that now appears at the top of the options menu when you pause gameplay with the PS button on the controller. Your music can also be browsed and controlled remotely from any iOS or Android device using the Spotify mobile app and a feature called Spotify Connect, which works similarly to Apple's AirPlay system. Tim Grimsditch, Spotify's head of global product marketing, noted that this would enable others in the room to choose music while a player was enjoying a game.
The app is compatible with both Free and Premium Spotify accounts, and the music library and features of the app (including background play and Connect) are the same across both. As on PC, Spotify Premium, which costs Ł9.99, unlocks ad-free playback and improved sound quality (although offline play, available on mobile, is not supported). PlayStation Plus membership is not required.
You can see why Sony was attracted by Spotify's vast library and user base, but what's in it for the music-streaming outfit? Grimsditch noted that, from a pure marketing perspective, the audiences for PlayStation and Spotify are a good match. But he also characterised it as part of a drive at Spotify to make listening to music a more sociable pastime again.
"I guess there's a long-term strategic play here, which is that for a long time, a lot of developments in the industry prioritised personal listening of music - starting from the Sony Walkman, right?" he said. "We noticed a few years ago that we were investing a lot of time in creating a very personal experience; people were spending a lot of time with their headphones in, but they maybe weren't finding it as easy to play music at home any more.
"So we've been on a mission for a couple of years now, which includes the development of Connect, to try and create effectively the ultimate home listening experience for the streaming listener. This is really a big leap in that evolution. [PlayStation has] huge scale, a really powerful device, and an audience that's a really close fit for the Spotify audience."
Here are the PlayStation Music featuring Spotify launch markets: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, UK and USA.