Video games are a nearly $US200 ($278) billion industry. That’s a lot of money sloshing around an increasingly small group of notoriously secretive companies. Where does it all go? At least some of it is poured back into competing storefronts and subscription services like PlayStation Plus and Game Pass. Thanks to a new SEC filing, we now have some hard figures for what this new console war looks like, with both Sony and Microsoft shelling out millions over a single game.
The SEC filing in question belongs to Snail Games and was required as the company prepares to file its initial public offering (IPO). Despite being public since September 16, it was only spotted yesterday by YouTuber GP (via TrueAchievements). While most of the document is a broad overview of the company’s finances, one particular section near the end sheds light on specific Game Pass and PS Plus deals surrounding Ark: Survival Evolved, the hit survival sim by Studio Wildcard.
Ark: Survival Evolved is a popular online multiplayer game that mashes together dinosaurs and science fiction. It launched back in 2017 but remains one of the top 20 most-played games on Steam as players continue hunting for resources and battling one another. Sony decided to make it one of this March’s PS Plus games on PS4, and according to the recent SEC filing the console manufacturer paid $US3.5 ($5) million for it. Normally $US20 ($28), the agreement meant PS Plus subscribers could download the game for free for a five-week period, and then play it whenever they wanted as long as their subscription was still active (a $US50 ($69) version includes an expansion and other add-ons).
Microsoft has been even more aggressive in bringing the game to Game Pass. According to the filing, Snail Games saw $US2.5 ($3) million in revenue from the first half of 2022 alone for licensing Ark: Survival Evolved to the service. The company also reported another $US2.3 ($3) million in deferred revenue from a deal to bring Ark II, the one starring Vin Diesel, to Game Pass when it launches in 2023. While the agreement for the first game is currently set to renew “perpetually,” the one for Ark II is planned for three years.
To put these numbers in perspective, Microsoft previously paid $US600,000 ($832,920) to bring Cooking Simulator to Game Pass. Epic Games also spent $US1.4 ($2) million to give away open-world survival sim Subnautica for free on PC. Microsoft and Sony did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The new data points come amidst an ongoing fight between Sony and Microsoft over the latter’s planned acquisition of Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard. According to documents filed with Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defence, which recently approved the deal, Game Pass on consoles brought in revenue of $US2.9 ($4) billion in 2021. The company also reported having 25 million Game Pass subscribers at the beginning of 2022.
Sony, meanwhile, claimed 47.3 million PS Plus subscribers in its most recent earnings report, though it’s not clear how much total revenue the program generated (if you assume all of the accounts subscribed for a full year at the lowest price of $US60 ($83), it’s about $US2.8 ($4) billion in revenue). The PS5 has argued in its own filings to Brazil’s government and others that Microsoft’s $US69 ($96) billion deal to bring Call of Duty, Diablo IV, and other games to Game Pass would make it much harder to compete in the gaming industry.
So far nobody seems to be buying that argument, but Microsoft still needs to pass an antitrust probe by the UK as well as convince regulators in the EU, U.S., and elsewhere if it hopes to close the deal as planned by June 2023.
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