For years, PlayStation fans could enjoy online gaming free of charge on the PS3, but that is all about to change with the arrival of the PlayStation 4. In the next-generation, Sony will be following in the steps of Microsoft by requiring gamers to have a PlayStation Plus membership to play games online. It's a decision that IHS analyst Piers Harding-Rolls estimates will generate the company an additional $1.2 billion by 2017.
“While this battle to engage publishers and consumers ensues, Sony has already taken a major step towards a more profitable and competitive PlayStation business with a single but significant commercial decision to place online multiplayer gaming behind the PlayStation Plus subscription paywall," Harding-Rolls told VG247.
“IHS forecasts that Sony’s change in strategy will help generate $1.2bn in annual consumer spending on PlayStation Plus subscriptions by 2017 and will give Sony access to an essential and substantial new revenue stream, one which Microsoft has enjoyed since the launch of Xbox Live way back in 2002.”
Sony already offers its fans PlayStation Plus, which provides them with free games and steep discounts on a monthly basis, but it's not required to play games online. As a result, the firm claims that PS Plus subscriptions have only earned Sony $140 million to date.
“In contrast, Microsoft Xbox Live users, who only have access to online multiplayer gaming through Gold accounts, spent nine times as much – $1.25 billion – on service subscriptions in 2012,” he said.
“And since the launch of Xbox Live in 2002, total spending on Xbox Live subscriptions has reached a very substantial $4.7 billion. Over the past decade, the revenue derived from this spending has enabled Microsoft to invest in and build a world-class online platform and digital content service, allowing the company to stay ahead of its console competitors.
"Sony is positioning itself to deliver its most profitable PlayStation business since the launch of the PlayStation 3," he continued.
“IHS believes that lower research and development costs for PlayStation 4 hardware, additional revenue streams from online service subscriptions and a more aggressive transition to higher margin digital content sales are combining to strengthen Sony’s games business outlook even in the face of increased competition from cheap Android consoles and alternative devices eating into consumers’ gaming time, including smartphones and tablets.”
While mandatory PS Plus could come as a shock for those not used to paying for online gaming, it's actually a really good program with plenty of incentives. The free games alone are worth the monthly fee. The good news is that if you don't want to pay for PS Plus, you'll still have access to all of the PS4's entertainment apps.