PlayStation's monthly active users (MAUs) have dropped to the lowest point since 2019 as consumers react to new real-world conditions and an inflation market.
Sony's latest Q2 FY2022 report shows clear downward trends in gaming for the quarter ending September 30, 2022. PlayStation's Games & Network Services metrics were down in almost every relevant metric, from overall revenues and operating income (down 11% and 59%, respectively) and overall game unit sales (down 18%) to monthly active users, one of the most important figures for the games division.
According to the data, PlayStation's monthly active users (MAUs) were down to 102 million in Q2'22, representing a drop of 1 million users in a quarter-over-quarter basis, and a reduction of 2 million users on a year-over-year basis. The Q2 period actually had the lowest MAU count in the last three years. Pre-pandemic PlayStation MAUs were 96 million in Q2'19, and then shot up to 106 million during Q3'19 to reflect seasonal holiday boosts.
MAUs further jumped to 114 million in Q4'19, which was the January - March 2020 quarter, as the world sheltered in place against COVID-19. MAUs held steady throughout this period, dropping to 108 million briefly in Q2'20, then jumping back up to 114 million in the Q3'20 period.
Ever since then, MAUs have fallen steadily except for the holiday 2021 period where PlayStation users hit 111 million. PlayStation monthly active users have dropped 9 million in the last twelve months.
While pandemic user highs may have come and gone, this fluctuation in MAUs is somewhat normal for Sony. Taking a look at the user chart, we can see that MAUs typically crest during the Q3 holiday season period (October - December) to reflect gift purchases.
Even with the might of games like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, it is unclear if MAUs will spike to intra-pandemic levels, but we should nonetheless see MAUs rise during the holiday period.
Monthly Active Users are critical for PlayStation
Why are monthly active users, or MAUs, so important? More users typically means higher revenues across all purchase channels, whether its physical or digital game sales, subscriptions like PlayStation Plus, or in-game purchases in free-to-play and premium live games. The ultimate goal is to turn every user into a long-term spender across these broad markets.
So now we know why MAUs are so important, we can understand how drops in monthly active users can impact the business.
We also can't forget that Sony's PlayStation empire is built primarily on the digital market.
Microtransaction revenues from its Add-On Content segment make the lion's share of all quarterly and annual earnings. MAUs are directly tied with digital earnings--more people online equals more people spending in some way, whether its money or time (the latter of which is seen as a kind of deferred investment that will eventually translate to monetary purchases in some way).
MAUs are not only critical right now, but they will become even more important as Sony begins to roll out its live service games across PC and PlayStation 5 consoles. MAUs will also play a critical role in its mobile game expansions.
The aim here is to reach more users across more platforms and expand the ecosystem, but games aren't enough--Sony must create a compelling reason for users to stay in both the ecosystem and the games that power it, and that can often be achieved via creative value propositions through content, services, promotions, discounts, and other mechanisms of engagement.