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Sony looking at Online Pass equivalent for first-party titles

But would "struggle" with charging a simple subscription fee for console multiplayer gaming

Sony has told GamesIndustry.biz that it supports publisher initiatives to monetise second hand games consumers through online play, and that it is currently investing in a solution for its own first-party titles.

The move has been pioneered by Electronics with Project $10 and refined through the Online Pass, which charges those that buy games second hand to access online multiplayer services, helping publishers recoup some money in the controversial pre-owned market.

"On the principle of making online portions of the game available or unlocked from the disc-based release for a fee, we're broadly supportive of that," said Sony's European president Andrew House in an interview published today.

"And we're exploring actively the same option for our own content."

While EA has been first to roll-out the practice across the EA Sports line-up, other companies including Red Faction publisher THQ and French firm Ubisoft are also putting systems in place.

Activision's Bobby Kotick has suggested the monetisation of online console play could go further, and that he'd like to see a subscription service for Call of Duty games, but House said Sony would "struggle" with that idea, and warned against a one-size-fits-all attitude to pricing.

"In terms of just a charge for basic online play, that's something that we have to talk about a lot more and we struggle with a little bit because we feel very vindicated and base a lot of the success of PSN today - a 70 per cent connection rate across consoles - on the fact that we've removed that major initial barrier to entry."

Sony is making money from PSN with the recent introduction of PSN Plus, a premium subscription that bundles multiple free games, content and access to beta phases for a set fee.

Uptake is better than expected, said House, and the company is now beginning to analyse user patterns and observing the first consumer trends.

"It's interesting that there's been a more significant uptake on the annual subscriptions than there has been on the three months subscription, with the exception of Japan," detailed House.

"I think that we need to remain hard at work on ensuring the content offering and the content flow remain strong. I have a sense that there is a second tier of PSN users that are almost ready to sign up that are in something of a wait-and-see mode because they want to see a bit more of the roadmap and how it flows out and is it meaningful to them? Which is absolutely fair enough."

It's not just a successful service for Sony, said House, as the company gathers data to convince publishing partners that they can also take advantage of PSN Plus for marketing and sales boosts.

"As with any of these propositions we've got to validate it first and then show them some good viable data on it," he offered. "There's overall amongst publishers, certainly with European publishing partners, a good open flexibility to talk about different models and actively explore them.

"There's increasing recognition that within the network space for our audience it's a mistake to try and adopt a one-size-fits-all attitude. The network naturally leads you to a variety of business models. Creating multiple consumer options is the way to do that and publishers are latching on to that idea. Whether it's based around their own franchises or being part of a publisher-led initiative."

The full interview with Andrew House, where he also discusses the launch of Move and changing the perceptions of 3D, can be read here.

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Latest comments (6)

Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 6 years ago
I think they have bigger problems at the moment with the USB dongle hack.. And then saying unlocked from the disc-based release for a fee sounds not like a good thing to say at this moment.. Personally I loath practices like that, if it's on the disc it should be available from the start (it's tested and ready).. 'DLC' should be actual DLC and not already stored on the disc, but ofcourse I know why it's done like that, it means lesser bandwidth to pay for and so they save a lot of money..
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Private Industry 6 years ago
I guess he means unlocking for a fee when buying the game pre owned rather then new.
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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 6 years ago
Um, would someone remind Sony that they were already doing this on their PSP games? Don't remind them that they were doing it for $20 for used codes... we'd like them to forget that...
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Peter Skerritt Former Armchair Analyst / Console Game Reviewer 6 years ago
Again with the war on used games!

How about cutting prices-- at least the "HD tax"-- and using that to dissuade cash-strapped consumers from buying used instead of this sort of legal extortion?

No?
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James Verity6 years ago
start charging anything extra to play games online (second hand or not) and you will kill your own market... people will just avoid buying your companies products all together... companies are already taking the mickey by charging customers for DL content that you have put on the disk in the first place...

as for charging a fee to play COD online... your having a laugh... I should be charging you a fee every time I get used to host a game... even more so when you let cheats and hackers wreck the game for people that want to play without cheating!!!

also companies need to work out why people ditch the new games so quickly in the first place instead of keeping them in their collections...

Edited 3 times. Last edit by James Verity on 26th August 2010 12:30am

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Private Industry 6 years ago
Even if free DLC would get people to buy other titles of that company it does not mean they buy those games new, if they buy them pre owned it`s for the company then the same as if they would not buy the game.
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