Sony’s decision to introduce a subscription paywall to its multiplayer offerings on the PlayStation 4 may have irritated some people, but it’s not hard to see why the platform holder made the decision. According to IHS analyst Piers Harding-Rolls, the firm stands to earn a whopping $1.2 billion in annual consumer spending by 2017 courtesy of the subscription service.

“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 paywall,” said the forecaster. “[This] will give Sony access to an essential and substantial new revenue stream.”

The analyst added that PlayStation Plus made the firm just $140 million last year, a figure impeded by the fact that it’s not mandatory. “In contrast, Xbox Live users, who only have access to online multiplayer gaming through Gold accounts, spent nine times as much – $1.25 billion – on service subscriptions in 2012,” he explained.

In fact, Harding-Rolls continued that the move may make the PS4 the most profitable PlayStation platform yet. “IHS believes that lower research and development costs for the PS4 hardware, additional revenue streams from online service subscriptions, and a more aggressive transition to higher margin digital content sales are combining to strengthen Sony’s games business outlook.”

Perhaps the really impressive thing is that Sony’s got PlayStation Plus to a stage where we don’t feel bad about paying for it. The quality of the service across the PlayStation 3 and Vita has been excellent, and while it would obviously be preferable if it remained optional, it’s not like splashing out on the premium membership is the end of the world.