How much are gaming's big 3 platform holders making from subscriptions? Quite a bit.
Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony are all making considerable revenue streams from their respective subscription services. Thanks to figures made public by Brazil's CADE competition authority, we're now able to compare the Big 3's subscription revenues for calendar year 2021.
According to the data, PlayStation's subscription lead over Xbox is not as substantial as many had thought. PlayStation's subscription duo--PS Plus and PS Now--only beat Xbox subscriptions by some $700 million throughout 2021. Those numbers do not include the full extent of Xbox Game Pass revenues and are only limited to consoles, not including PC earnings.
- Nintendo Switch Online made nearly $1 billion in 2021
- Microsoft reveals how much money Game Pass actually makes
According to data made publicly available by Sony, both PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now generated as much as $3.63 billion throughout 2021. Since revenues are part of PlayStation's Network Services segment, which includes PS Plus, PS Now, and advertising revenue, it's likely the combined subscriptions actually made less.
Comparing that with Xbox Game Pass, which made $2.9 billion in revenues throughout 2021 on consoles alone (as per data from CADE, which has now been redacted from the original reports), we can see that the gap isn't that wide.
The revenues gap between PlayStation and Xbox Game Pass subscriptions would also likely shrink with Game Pass PC and Xbox LIVE subscription revenues included as well.
Nintendo Switch Online revenues were at $932 million in 2021 across a 32 million subscriber base. The acceleration to 32 million subscribers within 3 years is quite a milestone for Nintendo, especially considering Switch Online is entirely additive to its ecosystem and has not triggered digital earnings to rise above physical.
It helps that Switch Online is incredibly cheap compared to its competitors at $3.99 a month and $19.99 per year, but the newer upgraded Switch Online Expansion Pack subscription tier is $49.99 per year.
This highlights two major points: PlayStation isn't leading by all that much on the multi-game subscription front, and that Xbox Game Pass is making considerable revenues compared to the number of subscribers. PlayStation Plus alone had 47.3 million subscribers in Q1 2022 compared to Game Pass' 25 million subscribers, a difference of 22.3 million users.
However the gap between subscription revenues was $700 million; Sony earned roughly $700 million more than Game Pass with a differential of over 22.3 million subscribers across both PS Plus and PS Now.
So what does this tell us?
Xbox Game Pass is immensely valuable and it has disrupted the video games market. Sony's PlayStation subscriptions are likewise incredibly valuable and the company wants to drive subscription value with its new three-tier PS Plus offerings, which is directly inspired by Xbox Game Pass.
These figures show that Xbox Game Pass is a force to be reckoned with on both a revenue level and a growing subscription level across all platforms. As the subscription value increases with more content, more gamers should subscribe, but the converse is true--the lack of big games will result in churn.
Right now Game Pass has over 400 games across consoles and PC, and if the Microsoft-Activision merger closes, some of gaming's most popular billion-dollar franchises will be made available on the service to significantly boost overall value.