Right now, Sony’s PSN ( OR SEN, which hasn’t really caught on much at all) is free. It won’t cost you a cent to download demos, dabble in Home or, importantly, play games online – but could that change?
It’s no secret that Sony’s in financial trouble. The corporation’s forecast a massive loss of $6.4 Billion (through some tax semantics) and will be focusing on digital imagine, mobile and games as "the three main focus areas of its electronics business". As a unified Sony, new global boss Kazuo Hirai says that "the company also aims to increase sales by enriching its catalogue of downloadable game titles and subscription services available through the PSN platform."
Could that also mean monetising PSN by stripping away some of its free content?
Analysts seem to think so- but don’t worry; they all pretty much agree that Sony will never explicitly charge for online multiplayer gaming.
"I think it’s unlikely that they will require a fee, but think they will strip down the free version to multiplayer and not much else in order to encourage people to pay the fee," says everyone’s favourite prognosticator, Michael Pachter to GI.biz.
"Providing networked services for online gaming is not inexpensive, and charging for these services would help Sony defray those costs,” agrees Billy Pidgeon of M2 Research. “I think Sony would best benefit by continuing to build out on the currently employed freemium model, charging for enhanced, tiered and incremental items, services and add-ons to add value to the online gaming experience."
"The PlayStation Plus program provides great incentives for subscribers, and Sony can get more revenue from advertising, item transactions and specialized services to enhance specific aspects of online gameplay such as custom content and rules for use for individuals, guilds and other groups,” he added. “Sony should also move quickly to shift paid content other than gaming to the network."
I certainly don’t think Sony would go the Microsoft route and have the audacity to charge for online multiplayer (a charge people are curiously happy to pay, mind you) – but I certainly think it would be in Sony’s best interests to try and get a little more money for all of its online infrastructure. PlayStation Plus offers nice incentives, but it’s really only tailored towards the “core” gamer. Personally, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more free-to-play gaming from Sony, laden with real-world microtransactions, and a few more interesting experiments like the recent offering of Killzone 3’s multiplayer for “free.”