June 21, 2022
Hi, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Tuesday, we’re reviewing the current state of Sony’s PlayStation Plus subscription service and how it stacks up to Xbox Game Pass. Also, the game industry’s love of remakes and remasters is taking on an all-new form.
Microsoft’s push into subscription gaming has become too big for its prime competitor to ignore. And last week, Sony finally answered with the launch of its revamped PlayStation Plus platform in the U.S., which now includes three tiers, hundreds of games and a suite of other perks designed to appeal to those who want more bang for their buck.
I’ve been using the platform’s Extra and Premium tiers for the last week, perusing the collection and making sense of how much value Sony has packed into them. It’s clear there are enough high-quality games to justify at least a few months to maybe as long as a year of the new PS Plus. But a confusing tier system, poor marketing and the lack of a concrete road map of new additions makes this more of a Game Pass lite than a true subscription competitor.
PS Plus is great for newcomers. If you’re not a diehard Sony fan or have only just gotten your hands on a new PlayStation 5, then the revamped PS Plus’ middle tier, called Extra, is a solid deal. (The standard version of PS Plus, now called PS Plus Essential, remains unchanged, and I see no reason to ever pay for it again.)
The Premium tier needs a lot of work. Instead of creating just two tiers, Sony opted for three. And that’s where PS Plus starts to run into trouble, which is only made worse by the company’s poor marketing efforts.
PlayStation Plus has a pipeline problem. Much of PS Plus is composed of older games, many of which longtime Sony customers have likely already bought and played.
Sony’s biggest issue is its messaging. When talking to an assortment of my gaming friends about the new PS Plus, a few of them had no idea it existed, and those who did had little idea of what it included. Many of them have let their PS Plus subscriptions lapse months or even years ago because so few games require it to use online multiplayer anymore due to the rise of free-to-play.
Sony made the choice not to rebrand PS Plus, and that may have been a smart move considering the lack of faith PlayStation’s top exec Jim Ryan has expressed toward subscription gaming. But if the company wants to turn the platform into something that can sign up and retain subscribers for the long term, it may need to do a better job communicating with casual consumers. It doesn't need to go toe to toe with Game Pass, but it would help if Sony would open up about its plans to add more value over time.
— Nick Statt
The competitive edge of digital solutions
For the last 50 years, SAP has worked closely with our customers to solve some of the world’s most intricate problems. We have also seen, and have been a part of, rapid accelerations in technology in response. Across industries, certain paths have emerged to help businesses manage the unexpected challenges over the last few years.
“No one really knows the final shape of the metaverse, but some things are already clear. And that is, of course, that a lot of different technologies are going to need to work together for all the different domains to work.” — Khronos Group President Neil Trevett explained the goal of the new Metaverse Standards Forum, an industry group composed of Epic, Meta, Microsoft, Sony and others that will collaborate on interoperability and other technologies.
“I want the team to be really proud about Battlefield 2042. That is what they are chasing and they have their heart and the passion there. We want to be really, really proud of DICE. We want DICE to be the number one spot for first-person shooter games in Europe, and one of the powerhouses in the world. It's a fabulous team. We're going to make magic together." — Rebecka Coutaz, the new general manager of Battlefield developer EA DICE, spoke with GamesIndustry.biz about the process of trying to turn Battlefield 2042 around after its disastrous launch late last year.
Meta takes the wraps off VR prototypes. Meta yesterday unveiled some of its working prototypes for next-generation virtual reality, including some of the smallest and lightest VR headsets the company has ever produced.
Destiny cheaters pay the price. A hacking website finally agreed to settle with Destiny developer Bungie and pay $13.5 million in damages, bringing an end to the copyright lawsuit.
Supply constraints hit Xbox controllers. Microsoft on Tuesday confirmed its “working as fast as possible” on addressing shortages of Xbox controllers in Europe.
Activision Blizzard claims its execs were unaware of abuse. The game publisher on Thursday claimed that its senior executives did not ignore or look the other way regarding reports of abuse and harassment, according to its own internal investigation.
Unionization support is on the rise. A new report by UNI Global Union found that 79% of video game workers support unionization, GamesIndustry.biz reported, with developers in 29 countries pointing to low pay and excessive work hours as reasons why they’re interested in labor organizing.
Luxury fashion loves the metaverse. Meta on Friday showed off an upgraded avatar design and an all-new avatar store, of course equipped with luxury fashion brand collaborations from Balenciaga, Prada and Thom Browne.
Tencent forms an “extended reality” unit. The Chinese gaming giant is investing in augmented, virtual and mixed reality with a formal hardware-focused XR division, per Reuters.
Netflix may lay off more workers. The streaming service may announce another round of layoffs as soon as this week, Variety reported. The company laid off about 150 staffers and some contractors back in May following subscriber growth issues.
No gaming product is more reliable than one that’s already sold well. Given the industry’s ever-advancing hardware and graphical fidelity, as well as a new(ish) generation of console hardware, big game makers are turning to remasters and remakes at an increasing clip to resell customers titles they’ve already bought. Some studios are going even further and transforming popular classics into sprawling commercial entities.
Take Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII. The game is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and last week the Japanese publisher held a special event to announce a bevy of spinoffs, remakes and remasters. There’s now a remaster of PSP game Crisis Core, a sequel to 2020’s Final Fantasy VII remake called Rebirth, and a mobile reimagining of the original 1997 release called Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis. The whole FFVII compilation now numbers more than a dozen releases.
Sony is taking a less flagrant, but still financially motivated, approach to The Last of Us. Earlier this month, the company announced an official remake of the 2013 game, building upon the 2014 remaster that was released for the PlayStation 4. It gives Sony an opportunity to sell the game for a third time — it will retail for $70 this September — while also debuting it on PC for the first time. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before 2020’s The Last of Us Part II gets its own remaster or remake, setting up the cycle to continue yet again.
— Nick Statt
The competitive edge of digital solutions
When companies invest in maintaining their “green ledger” with the same commitment they have to their financial ledgers, they will be able to connect their environmental, social, and financial data holistically so they can steer their business towards sustainability. At the end of the day, what gets measured, gets managed.
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