As publishers and platform holders push more towards cloud services, the prominence of subscription-based models take more prominence. Australians have access to a few already, and they’re not bad deals. Xbox Game Pass is often better than buying a game outright, and EA’s model is better value than it first appears.
But the most successful model amongst all the publishers belongs to Sony. Small problem: it’s still not available in Australia.
According to SuperData, the most successful of the publisher-driven subscription services is PlayStation Now. For the third quarter of this year, PSNow booked 52% of all revenue generated from Netflix-style subscriptions. EA Access just nudged out the Xbox Game Pass for second place (16% versus 15%), but if you add up all of EA’s subscription offerings, the Battlefield and FIFA publisher generated 33% of revenue from gaming subscription services for Q3 2018.
There’s plenty of reasons why it makes good sense for publishers and first-party platforms. It offers a sustainable revenue stream, and the services have matured to a point where the offering is good on the gaming front as well.
And PSNow is a tempting offer. Since a change that allowed users to download games to their console, rather than having to only stream gameplay through their internet connection (like you would on the Nvidia Shield, for instance), it’s become a supremely cost effective way to play older PS2 and PS3 games for $US10/month.
You can play those games on your PC as well, although the PC offering doesn’t allow game downloads, only supports PS3 and PS4 games (not PS2), and the library is limited to around 500 games. But if you’ve got a good enough internet connection, and a compatible controller plugged into the PC, you can open up your desktop and fire up, say, Bloodborne. Or Everybody’s Golf. Or Alex Kidd in the Miracle World. You get the idea.
But it’s not available in Australia, or most of the world for that matter. PSNow is only available in 12 countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Switzerland, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. That’s most of the major territories, but doesn’t include a ton of countries in Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the entirety of the Asia Pacific and Oceania, the Middle East, South Africa, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South America, or South Korea, the last of which is one of the highest lucrative countries for gaming revenue per capita.
Given that the PS4 and PS4 Pro – and likely the PS5 or whatever the next generation is called – will never have the same level of backwards compatibility with the PS3 because of its unique CPU architecture, it’s a shame that Sony’s most cost-efficient service isn’t available to Australians. And it’s not like PlayStation isn’t popular in Australia.
But popularity does not server infrastructure make. So it makes sense that Australia wasn’t included for the initial launch of PS Now initially, but it’s almost been five years since PS Now launched. It may not be a huge factor now, thanks to a string of hugely successful first-party titles this year.
But as this generation of consoles wears on, having access to that back catalogue will increasingly be a huge drawcard for anyone looking to 2020 and beyond. Furthermore, as SuperData noted, people who pay for Netflix-esque subscription services spend more money on in-game content than users who don’t. As more and more games move to service-based model, that’s going to become increasingly important to AAA games. And should gamer apathy with pre-orders start to solidify more, that’s only going to increase the value of subscriptions that offer early demos, as EA Access does.
I’ve reached out to Sony’s local team for a comment, but hadn’t heard back at the time of writing. It’s worth noting that SuperData also aren’t factoring in Australia specifically. It’s still worth keeping in mind as we look ahead to the future of games, first-party platforms, publishers and they will all intersect over the next decade.