Although the majority of the big announcements had been made at E3 earlier in the year, Sony still put in a significant investment for Gamescom last week, hosting a more relaxed press conference, hands-on time with new product and a handful of new announcements, most notably from Insomniac with Heroes on the Move and Resistance 3.
After the event GamesIndustry.biz spent some time with European boss Andrew House to catch up with the Sony business, to discuss how PSN Plus is beginning to take off, the build up of momentum ahead of the Move launch in September, and how online content is changing first and third-party attitudes to the business of multiplayer gaming.
It’s absolutely one of our major events of the year. Obviously last year we took the unprecedented step of making a global announcement and that was more or less a deliberate statement. We are now for PlayStation 3 the single largest market overall. It’s a very vibrant market and we wanted to pay due difference to that by giving an announcement of that scale in Europe. So yes, it’s a very significant event for us.
There’s also this nice aspect of the consumer show as well. Unlike E3, which I managed for many years, you have that sense of a more fundamental connection to the consumer that I think is really very positive.
I’m not in a position to talk specifics because it’s still early days. But what I would say is that subscriptions are tracking at or above where our higher expectations were. Which is a way of saying in essence that we’re pleased. 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, but that’s no surprise because almost all subscriptions work better there on a short-term basis, it’s a cultural function of the market.
The points I’d note on reaction are that it’s been overwhelmingly positive from those that subscribed. 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.
The other interesting point that I would make is that we’ve seen an interesting and positive trend where a couple of the games within the content offering have been provided for free to subscribers and then seen an immediate up-tick in terms of their sales on PSN. It’s early days yet, but it’s very positive. We’re obviously doing more research into how the dynamics of the PlayStation Plus subscribers are going to function in the wider PlayStation Network. But what it leads me to believe is that there seems to be a try-before-you-buy and then a word of mouth factor there. Which, if it proves to be robust, is a very intriguing aspect of the model and one that we certainly hope to generate. It’s one that we’re trying to promote with the publishing community as well - that there’s a benefit to making content available to subscribers because there’s a promotional aspect among that customer that then leads to improved sales in the network, which is a win-win.
As with any of these propositions we’ve got to validate it first and then show them some good viable data on it. 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 lead initiative.