Sony has reportedly told UK retailers they can no longer sell PlayStation Now cards - which can be used to purchase fixed subscription periods for the company's games streaming and download service - in stores from 21st January, amid persistent claims it's readying to launch an expanded version of PlayStation Plus.
That's according to a new report by VentureBeat's Jeff Grub, who shares a recent email circulated to store staff by senior management at UK retailer Game as an example of the move. "Stores have until the close of day Wednesday 19, January to remove all POS and ESD cards from all customer-facing areas and update their digital bays in line with this week's upcoming commercial update", the message reads.
Although no reason for the removal of the cards is provided in the shared portion of the email, the move follows reports that Sony is preparing to ditch PlayStation Now - which enables members to stream and download recent and older titles from the PlayStation catalogue - in favour of a much-expanded version of its more popular PlayStation Plus service.
Currently, a Plus subscription is required to play the majority of online games on PlayStation, and members also gain access a small collection of games each month. However, Bloomberg's Jason Schreier reported in December that Sony was seeking to consolidate PlayStation Plus and Now into a single service - code-named Spartacus - starting this spring.
The move would see Sony ditching the PlayStation Now brand altogether to deliver a substantially overhauled PlayStation Plus service made up of three subscription tiers. The first would be functionally identical to the existing PlayStation Plus offering, and the second would give subscribers access to a large catalogue of PlayStation 4 games, with PS5 titles to follow.
PlayStation Now's streaming functionality would be reserved for tier three, which Schreier claimed would also offer extended demos and a library of classic PS1, PS2, PS3, and PSP games. This third subscription tier would bring PlayStation Plus more inline with Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which combines Game Pass' extensive all-inclusive library of downloadable and streamable titles with Xbox Game Pass Gold, required to play Xbox games online.
Back in August, sources told Eurogamer of plans for a more expensive premium PlayStation Plus offering, potentially including Sony's recently-purchased anime streaming service Crunchyroll.
Although Sony hasn't yet made comments publicly to suggest an imminent PlayStation Plus overhaul is on the way, today's claims it's working with UK retailers to pull PlayStation Now branded cards from stores does at least lend additional credence to those earlier reports. I've asked Sony for comment on this latest news and will update this story if I hear more.