PlayStation has ramped up its acquisitions in recent years, snapping up ten studios since 2021. It’s nothing on the scale of Microsoft purchasing Activision Blizzard, however, which is now the largest deal in gaming history. There’s a chance that Sony could go on a spending spree to level the playing field with Xbox.
Most of PlayStation’s new pickups are support studios. They help main developers, port games to PC, or focus on remastering old titles. Bungie is the only household name among them with a major new IP in the works. There’s nothing to show for the merger just yet, though, and it’ll take more than one game to compete with Call of Duty, Diablo, and Overwatch.
It’s clear that Xbox having a market dominance concerns most analysts. We don’t yet know how it’s going to affect the ecosystem as a whole. Sure, head honcho Phil Spencer promises 100 per cent parity with Call of Duty in the Xbox Podcast, but what about the rest of ActiBlizz’s expansive portfolio or future games?
“Sony surely is under pressure to react, even after its Bungie acquisition,” Kantan Games CEO Dr. Serkan Toto tells Gamesindustry.biz. “I expect further investments and acquisitions for PlayStation, including a large one that would move the needle for them in a meaningful way.”
It’s about more than just adding new games to the roster; it’s about how we play them. Sony leads the pack with around 50.1m PlayStation Plus subscribers. By contrast, Xbox Game Pass has 41.7m members, but the devil’s in the details.
“We estimate that nearly half of Xbox Game Pass subscribers will be on the Ultimate tier at the end of 2023,” says Omidia analyst George Jijiashvili. “This is in stark contrast to PS Plus, which we estimate around two-thirds will be on the cheapest Essential tier.”
That’s roughly £270.8 million per month from just half of Xbox’s members and £233.5 million from two-thirds of PlayStation users. Those numbers depend on monthly and yearly plan adoption, but Xbox clearly takes a bigger piece of the pie. It all comes down to value. Xbox grants members day-one access to the latest games for a fraction of what they’d normally cost. Chuck in cloud gaming so that system requirements are no longer a factor beyond broadband, and it’s a winning formula. Sony is trying to catch up in the cloud space, even one-upping Xbox with 4K support, but it’s a long road ahead.
Overall, the importance of memberships isn’t fully clear. Jijiashvili calls the subscription business method unproven when it comes to sustaining triple-A game development. Still, PlayStation likely needs something to bite back in the long term.