Sony focus moving from hardware sales to active user base

PS4 maker the latest to underscore the increasing importance of engagement metrics over unit sales

For its most recent quarter, Sony sold 4.2 million PlayStation 4s, up from 3.9 million in the same period last year. While the company is no doubt happy to see growth in that number, it may not mean as much as it once did.

In a post-earnings conference call translated by Sony, an executive responding to an investor question said the company is expecting its gaming division to post ¥2 trillion in sales for the current fiscal year, with more than half of that most likely coming from the PlayStation Network.

"The business model used to be a B2B royalty model," the executive explained. "Now it has shifted to a direct-to-consumer model. Hardware is important, but rather than hardware, the number of users is getting more important: monthly average users, PS Plus subscriber numbers, and also how much time are they putting in using this console? The accent seems to be shifting from hardware to userbase."

This attitude is increasingly widespread in the industry. While Sony still reports its hardware sales regularly, companies like Microsoft, Activision Blizzard, and Electronic Arts have generally shifted from releasing unit sales metrics to releasing engagement metrics like monthly active users, or average time spent playing certain games.

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