Charging for Online Gaming

Jan 08 2019

Whenever I come home for break, I am reminded how annoying I find it that Sony decided to start charging for online services for the PS4. Despite this, I just thought I would take a moment to reflect on why makes so much sense.

Of their current customers, those that would not pay to receive the previously free online services, likely were spending little in their first place, especially in online DLC. The few that may not buy games anymore were likely not profitable in the first place. However, those that spend more than their fair share will be more than happy to spend $50/year to keep the services.

Additionally, looking at Xbox and the Switch, the other two rival consoles, they both charge for online too. I get that the Switch was not around when these decisions were made, but I think it makes the most sense to talk about in today’s context. Really the only competitors that do not charge are mobile gaming and PC’s. Given the difference between consoles and the other two, the risk of conversion is low.

In 2018, Sony reported having 34.2 million online subscribers. That translates to about $1.7B in their pockets. This allows them to spend more improving the online experience (improving their switching costs and barriers) and just profit more in general.

It was also clever to wait a few years after Xbox started charging, because they drew in plenty of customers because of the free online and then converted them to paying customers.

So while I cannot justify paying money to enjoy online to play for the two weeks I’m at home in Florida, I’m happy for Sony that others can and do.