Sony Live Service Games PS5 PC Smartphones Business Model 1
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Last week, several live service games announced they are shutting down. These titles included critically acclaimed games like Knockout City and Rumbleverse, releases which had been well-received by both players and the media, but had seemingly failed to attract a large enough playerbase to make sustaining them worth the ongoing outlay. It raises difficult questions about Sony’s strategy.

For those out of the loop, the platform holder has said that it has more than ten live service games in production, and these numbers don’t appear to include existing releases like MLB The Show 22 and Gran Turismo 7. Upon acquiring developer Bungie, it announced that it was establishing a live service centre of excellence: a division designed to maximise its output in the space.

Live service games differ from traditional releases in that they’re intended to be updated and refreshed constantly post-release. The gold standard for this style of project is Fortnite, a title which constantly reinvents itself with new seasons, game mechanics, and an ever-revolving content store to keep players engaged and, perhaps crucially, spending money.

Sony Live Service Games PS5 PC Smartphones Business Model 2

The risks are high, as it requires consistent investment to keep players occupied. But the rewards are unrivalled: the likes of Genshin Impact are among the biggest earners on the PS Store. Sony has gradually seen a significant chunk of its annual revenue come from the royalties it earns on top of microtransaction sales in digital storefronts such as the aforementioned Fortnite Item Store.

And now it wants its own persistent hit. Among the titles it has in development, there are reports of an online Horizon Forbidden West spin-off, a brand new Twisted Metal, and Naughty Dog’s hotly anticipated The Last of Us Factions. But with gamers restricted by finite time, it begs the question: how many live service games can players realistically support?

Sony will have an uphill battle converting fans of existing titles, like Fortnite and Genshin Impact, to try something new – and it’ll require significant investment to keep them engaged beyond launch day, too. The platform holder would argue that its purchase of Bungie for over $3 billion shows that it’s taking the strategy seriously, but is there enough oxygen to support all of these titles at once?

Sony Live Service Games PS5 PC Smartphones Business Model 3

The strategy will be buoyed by the firm’s relaxed stance on hardware platforms: PS Studios boss Hermen Hulst has already admitted that live service games could launch day one on PC as well as PS5, massively expanding the potential audiences it’ll be able to reach. It’s also finally exploring the lucrative smartphone space, where titles like Genshin Impact perform best.

That means there are millions of players it may be able to reach with this strategy, potentially reducing some of the risk. But with so many other games available to play, it’s going to have to create some truly special titles to attract players, and as the closure of titles like Knockout City and Rumbleverse prove, sometimes making a good game isn’t even enough.

The platform holder would never publicly admit it, but there’s a quiet understanding that not every project in its portfolio needs to be a success: if one of its ten titles hits even half as hard as Fortnite, then it’ll have a multi-billion dollar game in its catalogue. But while Sony’s marketing and branding gives it an advantage over other publishers, its success is by no means guaranteed.

The company employs incredibly smart people, and it’ll be well aware of the risks. It’s important to underline that it claims it’s doing all of this without any impact on its more traditional, single player output, too. The firm’s been good at expanding its market of late, with HBO’s The Last of Us proving it can successfully adapt its brands to television, driving interest back to the PS5.

But with the live service sector so erratic and unpredictable, this feels like a real acid test moment for PlayStation’s current hierarchy. We’ve learned not to bet against the organisation of late, but with its past efforts at major multiplayer hits being inconsistent at best, it already feels like the firm may be fighting an uphill battle. Let’s see if it can make it to the top.

How do you feel about Sony’s live service strategy? Does it have an uphill battle with these in-development projects, or do you think its plotting the right path? Do you think the closure of several well-received titles is a cause for concern? Let us know in the comments section below.

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