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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 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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Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.
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