Sony's new PlayStation Plus Collection is a golden ticket for subscription retention, and will anchor a new generation of console owners to the digital service.
The new PlayStation Plus Collection is a goldmine for retention, which is something Sony has struggled with. The PS Plus Collection is a vault of PS4 games included free with all active PS Plus subscriptions that mimics Microsoft's Game Pass. The addition adds tremendous value to the service, but it's exclusive for PS5 owners, and for good reason. PS Plus Collection is specifically designed to do many things at once--but all of them aim at keeping subscriptions active.
The PS Plus Collection only includes 18 PlayStation 4 titles. It's almost like an Xbox Game Pass lite. But unlike Game Pass, which includes a ton of live service-oriented games with microtransactions and monetization, the PS Plus Collection mainly serves up long-winded singleplayer-driven games (only 4 out of the 18 games have microtransactions).
This distinction is important and underlines Sony's strategy for retention through digital subscription value.
In 2017, Sony said it was tough to keep PS Plus subscribers. The company promised to add more value to the service, and PS Plus Collection is a direct response to this issue.
"For existing members we would like to make our service more attractive so that the retention rate remains high. That's going to be more important. It is not easy to retain [users] for a long time, but we have been implementing measures to retain them." Atsuko Murakami, Senior General Manager of Finance Department at Sony Corp said in the 2017 earnings call.
As of Q1'20, where Sony reported the best earnings in the entire history of gaming, PS Plus subscribers sat at 44.9 million. Sony's developments are paying off.
Credit: Arm Gunar, ResetERA
Sony's services have grown extensively since then, especially PS Plus and the PS Network. First, Sony expanded cloud storage to 100GB. Secondly, Sony embraced the single most important development in modern gaming: Cross-play.
Now with the PlayStation 5, it's adding the PlayStation Plus Collection.
If I'm right about previous predictions, this won't be the last major advancement Sony's services team makes under John Kodera's leadership. The PlayStation 5 could usher in new community features that fundamentally change social interactions on consoles forever.
The PlayStation Plus Collection will do the following:
- Increases subscriber retention - This is a big one. PS5 owners not only get free games every month, but access to a pool of vaulted PS4 titles for no fee.
- Exposes new PS5 gamers to PS4 generation - PS5 owners who skipped PS4 can still sample some of the best last-gent titles, which will spark interest in other games and lead to full game sales.
- Allows gamers to experience digital products without having to buy them - This is the big selling point for Game Pass.
- Solidifies easy transition from PS4 to PS5 - PS Plus Collection brings forward value from cross-gen transitions. Existing subscribers enjoy all the other benefits of PS Plus, including access to their free games vault, and full access to the PS Plus Collection titles.
- Adds more value to $399 digital-only PlayStation 5 SKU - PS5 owners who only have PS Plus will have something to play right off the bat. Providing access digitally is important considering a portion of the PS5s sold won't have disc drives--it also gives a way for legacy PS4 disc owners to continue playing these games on a disc-less PS5.
The idea here is to include robust games that require lots of time investment in order to complete. Sony has focused strongly on marquee, cinematic blockbuster-style games instead of adapting its titles with services in mind like Microsoft does (nearly every first-party MS Studios game has engagement-driven game mechanics).
Thus, the time investment with Sony games is different than Microsoft games. Sony titles have a definitive beginning, middle, and end, and Microsoft's titles typically are perpetual by virtue of their service-based hooks. This kind of investment allows gamers to actually finish a Sony-developed game and move on; but the high watermark for story, mechanics, and other content have been tailored more for singleplayer games, so while they're less replayable, they're more likely to invest players.
Let's consider the games offered.
10 of the 18 titles are games Sony had a hand in, and are experience-driven rather than service-driven. There's only one service-oriented game and that's Capcom's Monster Hunter: World.
This means players will invest a different quality of time into the product. This is good for retention because it naturally incentivizes players to continue spending time on the game until it's complete, and their subscription must remain active to continue to play. Once that game is done, they might sample another game that likewise requires the same investment. This folds neatly into Sony's established business model and doesn't force Sony to start adapting its core game development tenants so it can better monetize its games.
The other 8 games are sprawling titles; From Fallout 4 and Bloodborne to Final Fantasy XV and Persona 5, PS5 gamers will have content to keep them busy right out of the gate. That's the aim: To keep players busy so their subscriptions must remain active if they want to continue playing.
Subscription retention isn't the only after-effect here.
I fully expect PlayStation Plus Collection to benefit from I call the Game Pass Effect, a subscription-oriented phenomenon that sees full game sales rise as a result of increased exposure, access, and availability.
PS Plus Collection could end up being a goldmine that cements a new era of gamers to Sony's most popular subscription service. PS Plus is a glue that will connect both PS4 and PS5 and offers benefits to both. Sony is inspired to add value early on to benefit from direct-to-consumer digital revenues right as the console generation starts and continue accelerating and adding value as time goes by.
This could just be the beginning of Sony's new value-oriented expansion on PlayStation Plus for the new generation of PlayStation 5 hardware.
PS Plus Collection includes the following games and will be available when both the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition ship on November 12, 2020.
- Battlefield 1
- Batman Arkham Knight
- Days Gone
- Detroit: Become Human
- Fallout 4
- Final Fantasy XV
- God of War
- Infamous: Second Son
- Monster Hunter World
- Mortal Kombat X
- Persona 5
- Ratchet and Clank
- Resident Evil: Biohazard
- Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
- Until Dawn
- The Last Guardian
- The Last of Us: Remastered
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