PlayStation plus soars to 34m and PS4 hardware exceeds target by 1m units

Sony's full year results are a parade of good news for the company and the industry. Though the standout figure is that globally just 32 per cent of full game sales on the console platform are digital.

When you account for the huge numbers of discounted and smaller indie titles available through the PlayStation Store (which we can be certain of having recently seen both 2015's Rainbow Six Siege and 2014's Shadow of Mordor in the Italian top console downloads for 2017), which have little to no equivalent at retail – apart from per-owned sales which aren't tracked by Sony – the figure for full-priced releases must be even lower still.

Digital shift is still moving at a pace, but that pace is slowing, having shifted eight points from 2015 to 2016 (19 per cent to 27 per cent), but only five points during 2017. That five point shift fits with EA's prediction from January this year, which the company said would now be the typical figure for many years to come.

As a global figure it's almost certainly lagging behind the position of the UK today, with many markets (including Japan itself) being more physically-inclined when it comes to console game purchasing. Still it's evidence that digital shift isn't accelerating in full game sales, though the proportion of revenue moving to digtial, through games-as-service titles is undoubtedly increasing.

Altogether Sony estimates sell-through of 645m PS4 games to the end of December 2017.

PLAYSTATION PLUS

It's worth noting that the 'free' games Sony provides as part of its PlayStation Plus service aren't included in such figures, though in essence they are digital full game sales in practically every respect.

The subscription service boomed over 2017 by 29.5 per cent from 34.2m players, up from 26.4 at the end of the previous period. That's accelerating growth and we'd expect to see it accelerate further still in 2018 as titles such as Fortnite, which are otherwise free-to-play but demand Plus membership as online games, continue to grow. Sony gave no predictions for the service in 2018.

HARDWARE SALES

The good news for everyone is that PS4 hardware sales exceeded expectations last year with the company shifting 19m consoles globally, rather than the 18m expected. Sony estimates the global sell-through of consoles by the end of December 2017 as 73.6m units, with shipped units by the end of March 2017 totalling to around 79m

That's one million less than last year and predictions for 2018, of 16m units, show the beginning of the end of what has been an incredible workhorse for the industry. As sales decline we can start to put credence to rumours of a new PlayStation, most likely in 2020. Though with PC-related architecture, and so near-full backwards compatibility, that's unlikely to be a new console transition of the sort the industry has had to suffer before.

FINANCIALS

Sales for full year 2017 (to March 31st this year) )were up 17.8 per cent year-on-year to ¥‎1,943.8bn (£12.88bn) with an operating income of ¥‎177.5bn (£1.18bn). Sony predicts that next year will be pretty flat with decreasing hardware sales causing a 2.3 per cent drop in sales but operating income still rising to ¥‎190bn (£1.26bn).

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