Datamined info suggests that Sony could be preparing its own PlayStation games launcher on PC. If true, Sony has a unique opportunity to unify PlayStation consoles with the PC platform...but it'll take a lot of planning to pull it off.
Sony has broken down its walled garden and is now sharing its precious, once-console exclusive games to PC. It's a good business plan; selling games on as many platforms as possible means more revenues. It's doing well so far, and Sony expects to make $300 million from PC this year.
There's just one thing missing: Console-to-PC integration. Right now gamers have to buy titles on Steam or the Epic Games Store, both of which are segregated from the PlayStation platform. Cross-platform integration is where the real money is. Sony could solve this issue with its own PlayStation PC launcher, which could unify consoles and services together in an ecosystem. It won't be easy...and it could be pretty costly. But if done right, Sony could make the most out of the PC platform.
Let's get one thing out of the way first: Steam dominates PC. Separate game launchers pale in comparison to the might of Steam. Everyone buys Steam games because A) they already own a bunch of Steam games and B) other features like cloud syncing, friends, sales, etc.
Sony could have a competitive edge by integrating the might of its PlayStation 4 ecosystem into its PC presence, though.
So how would this work? We've already outlined this in previous articles, but essentially think of the PlayStation PC launcher as the Xbox app in form and function. Sony also needs to give players a reason to use their launcher instead of Steam.
Ideally, the PlayStation PC app would be a one-stop launcher that features:
- A fully-fledged storefront that sells games (or links to an online storefront that sells games)
- Launch purchased PlayStation PC games, launch streamable PS Plus games, launch first-party PlayStation live games
- Link with PS4 and PS5 consoles, download purchased games and PS Plus games onto consoles etc
- Fully integrates PlayStation Network functionality, including friends, achievements, parties, etc. (with options for Discord integration, of course)
- Instantly launch PS Plus games that are available on PC, including cloud-streamed games and any native downloadable games that may come in the future
- Cross-save progression - This is super tricky and not guaranteed, but would be a huge benefit
- Cross-buy promotions - This could eat into Sony's revenues, but would be a big reason to actually use the PlayStation PC launcher
- Rewards systems - PlayStation Stars integration, earn bonus points
- Exclusive discounts - Steam-like sales on PC games that are only available on the app
It may take Sony years before it's ready, though. The current PlayStation Plus PC app is very clumsy and barebones.
These things are not easy to pull off. Microsoft integrated Xbox with PC years ago and the experience still isn't perfect. Sony should look at what Microsoft has done and, if possible, attempt to mimic Microsoft's steps while also utilizing its own brand and creativity to make something unique.
If Sony can pull this off, the PlayStation PC launcher would not only be a separate platform of the PlayStation ecosystem, but an extension and gateway into the online framework. That's the real goal: To reduce consumer friction and keep players "sticky" in the billion-dollar digital games market. Over 100 million consumers have purchased PlayStation 4 consoles so the install base is huge. If Sony could find a way to leverage the PS4 (and PS5) install base on PC to their favor, they could continue long-term success into the future.