Well, now we know why Sony did it.
PlayStation fanboys used to celebrate free online play on PlayStation 3, pointing to Xbox’s $60 a year fee to play online multiplayer. Then with the PlayStation 4, Sony went ahead and did the same thing, announcing that you would need a PlayStation Plus subscription ($50/year) to play online. A bit of a turnaround, but considering how scatterbrained both Microsoft and Nintendo have been about their consoles, people are willing to take it, just to get a console that isn’t a complete mess at the moment.
It has now been estimated that the decision to charge for online play will make Sony a staggering $1.2 billion every year.
Research firm IHS Electronics and Media said “Sony has already taken a major step towards a more profitable and competitive PlayStation business with a single but significant commercial decision to place online multiplayer gaming behind the PlayStation Plus subscription pay-wall.” The analyst notes that Sony made a measly $140 million from PlayStation Plus in 2012, compared to Microsoft’s $1.25 billion from Xbox Live Gold, a hefty addition to the $4.7 billion Microsoft has made off Xbox Live since the service launched in 2002.
At this point, there really isn’t much of a difference between the two services anymore; both require you to pay for online play, and both attempt to sweeten the deal by giving you free games every month (Instant Collection for PS+, Games with Gold for XBL), with the former, however, requiring you to have PS+ to access your games, and the later letting you keep them even if you let your Gold subscription lapse.
On the other hand, Gold puts a lot more behind the paywall, including free services like Netflix, Youtube, Amazon, and Internet Explorer, as well as the much anticipated Games DVR feature on Xbox One; PS+ only locks away multiplayer.
PS+ is $50 a year to Gold’s $60 a year, so it remains the better deal.