Is Home A Catalyst, Will Sony Charge For "Premium" Network?
As we all know, one of the more appealing traits of the PlayStation 3 is the free Network, which only requires a simple sign-up subscription and not a single solitary dime of your hard-earned money. And given the huge strides the Network and Store have taken in the past two years, this has become even more of a bonus.
Furthermore, Sony has continually said that PlayStation Home will be free, but there is the possibility that such an innovative and ambitious application could be grounds for future pondering at Sony...is now the time to start charging? Before, one could almost consider the free Network to be a sales gimmick, designed to entice gamers away from the far more popular Xbox Live. However, with the PS3 rapidly gaining ground and the Network holding almost as many active accounts as Live (depending on which source you use, this may not be accurate), Sony doesn't really need such a gimmick, anymore. On top of which, with projects like Home and other additions to the Network and Store, someone somewhere will naturally want more compensation for their efforts. We're already hearing talk about Premium items for the Store; items you pay for with real money, whether they be fancy new clothes for your avatar or a new couch for your Home living space. So the question is, how much longer is it before Sony decides to offer a Premium Network subscription?
We believe this is the next step Sony will take, although it may not be for at least another year or so. They won't go and start charging everyone for Network access, but they will eventually have something like Live's Gold membership. We assume, though, that unlike Live, Sony still won't charge you to simply play online. They'll charge you for access to certain "Premium" things, and one day, Home may be one of them. We're just preparing you for what we believe to be inevitable, although we hold Sony to their insistent claims that the Network is free and will continue to be free. Playing online for free, no matter which way you slice it, is a leg-up on the competition, so we don't see Sony tossing that away. We do, however, recognize them as a business that wishes to make money, and the next step seems logical to us...
12/6/2008 Ben Dutka