Analyst firm IHS Electronics and Media has praised Sony's decision to lock multiplayer behind a PlayStation Plus paywall.
Sony confirmed at E3 that PS4 owners will have to subscribe to PS+ if they wish to access online multiplayer – a function that is currently free for PS3 owners.
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,” IHS' Piers Harding-Rolls told MCV.
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.”
The company adds that PS+ subscriptions generated a relatively minor” $140m in 2012. In the same period Microsoft made $1.25bn in Xbox Live subscriptions. In fact, Xbox Live has since launch made in the region of $4.7bn in subscription fees.
Added Harding-Rolls: Sony's decision to emulate Microsoft's paid-for multiplayer gaming strategy levels the playing field and will allow it to invest more heavily in its PlayStation Network infrastructure and services and to compete head-to-head with Microsoft during the next console generation.
Sony is positioning itself to deliver its most profitable PlayStation business since the launch of the PlayStation 3. 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.”