March 30, 2022
Image: Martin Katler/Unsplash
Good morning! Sony’s highly anticipated announcement of its updated subscription service offering was as understated as the product itself. I'm Nick Statt, and after months of waiting I finally own a Herman Miller desk chair. My back has never been happier.
Sony revealed its much-anticipated answer to Xbox Game Pass yesterday, but it wouldn’t be fair to characterize it as such now that we know just how understated it is. It’s a far cry from the all-in subscription push some industry watchers were anticipating, and it illustrates just how wary Sony is of following in the footsteps of Microsoft.
Much of PlayStation Plus is remaining the same. Sony’s longest-running PlayStation subscription product has been PS Plus, which costs $60 annually for access to online multiplayer and a smattering of free games throughout the year, among other perks. But it’s become outdated.
Sony is not yet convinced subscription gaming is even viable. As it stands right now, most gaming subscriptions outside Game Pass are a nice, additive business that brings in more customers who might otherwise not have spent any money on the platform. To go further than that, as Microsoft does, would be too risky.
Subscription gaming is far from a slam dunk. The economics of the game industry — and how slow the market has been to adopt streaming and subscriptions — mean that no single business model will likely win out anytime soon. In that way, Sony is being prudent and likely rightfully conservative about pushing too hard in one direction.
For now, it looks like Sony is biding its time. Ryan said “things can change very quickly in this industry, as we all know,” and that he never would have anticipated PlayStation Studios games finding such success on the PC platform even just four years ago.
Subscription and cloud gaming are very obviously fast-growing, potentially major parts of the business, and the question now is how developers intend to make room for them and whether there ever will be a moment where the scales tip away from standard retail. Microsoft is standing alone with Xbox Game Pass, at least for the time being, and it may take years before we know just how early it might be to gaming’s big distribution shift.
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