Pay for PSN or get Live for free?

This entry over at Joystiq mentioned a “day of reckoning” in the online world, noting that one day we’ll either pay for Sony’s online service or get Xbox Live for free.

While I think you can make a strong argument that the two services will continue to use their current pricing structures (free vs. $50/year), particularly in the short-term, I think it’s rather likely that one becomes much like the other before this console cycle is over.

What’s your bet? Will it happen at all? What’s more likely, a paid version of PSN or a free Xbox Live?

My guess is that it’ll be a bit of both but MS is more likely to feel the pressure.

PSN is currently free but that definition might get a bit blurred as they add Home to the network. You’ll be buying virtual chairs, virtual shirts, and pay the doctor to get rid of your virtual crabs. I don’t expect tiers of service – that is really Microsoft’s game – but I don’t expect to escape the clutches of Home without any money leaving my wallet. Still, it’s free in spirit and, even with this, I expect it to remain that way.

Microsoft wants you to pay and, it seems to me, they’ve been far more successful than I ever expected both implementing the service and convincing people to pay for it. That said, it’s not exactly rocket science. I get a good portion of the Xbox Live feature set from Xfire. PSN inches closer to Live with each update. Steam is looking to fight Live on the PC. MS put the template out there and proved it works. It doesn’t look so impossible to copy.

You have the Wii with a free, but basically disabled service. You’ll have the PS3 with a growing audience and a bias against paying for peer to peer matchmaking. How do you respond? I’d guess slowly. I still can’t believe MS thinks Live will fly on the PC, where it’s landed like a wet turd, but it’s hard to think that Live won’t change in the next few years. There will still be a paid tier of service – I don’t expect it to go away – but I do expect to be able to play games with my friends on Live without a specific charge to do so.

My guess is that the PSN will die along with the PS3, allowing Live to keep happily charging $50/year.

Exactly. If the PS3 takes off, then the market will inevitably influence Microsoft to respond with incentives, one of those being making LIVE free.

But I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if people who owned both a 360 and a PS3 purchased single player games for the PS3 but on-line multiplayer games for the 360. As things currently stand, LIVE is a far and away better online service and my guess is gamers are willing to pay for it.

Sony is going to remain desperate to find reasons for people to buy a PS3 instead of an XBox, so they won’t charge for PSN.

Microsoft is going to remain determined to squeeze every cent they can out of every customer, so they won’t make Live free.

I’m guessing the status quo remains until the next generation–and it’s far too early to tell how that’ll play out.

Money for nothing and my chicks for free

I just wish MS would stop harassing me to upgrade to gold. I don’t want it, I just want to buy old games and download demos. Now stop emailing me.

Oh, and guitar hero songs. Where are those again?

Nintendo’s policy of pretending they have an online service but actually not delivering anything is my favorite. That way everyone who whines about online can shut the hell up, and I, not caring about online, don’t have to worry about precious development resources being diverted into something so worthless.

I think it’s the other way around. Sony has always been frank about how “basic online services” are free, and that includes the online gameplay that is really the only substantial thing on Live that costs money.

But my guess is that in a year or two, after Sony feels that they are on parity with the 360 (at least in checkbox form…quality of implementation will differ), they’ll have a paid layer on top of that. Once they get 14 or 20 million units sold, it’s going to be way too hard for the brass up to to avoid the temptation to monetize a portion of it. If they can convince 20% of a 20 million userbase to pay the same thing Live Gold costs, that’s a tidy $200 million a year.

Actually come to think of it, I don’t know that Sony will really ever go the subscription route, so much as microtransact the shit out of their service. They’ll sell digital wares on Home and in tons of titles, digital movies and music and so on and so forth.

Paying for peer to peer matchmaking is what steams my hams about XBL. If you’re going to charge, how about throwing up some game servers?

All Sony needs is for Haze or Socom 8 or Killzone 2 to catch on big-time and the lack of a unified friends list will seem unimportant in the face of MS charging for permission to play online.

I’m guessing Sony’s model wins out in the end, as it should. Charging a premium for online gameplay means a lot of gamers never bother to play online (or even hook their consoles up to the internet). Considering how much money can be made from digital downloads (including movies, classic arcarde games, and horse armor) it only makes sense to get people hooked.

For the short term, I don’t see much changing. Microsoft is dead set on recouping their losses and to start turning Windows like profit margins by charging a surfeit for every “service”. Meanwhile, Sony needs selling points for the PS3.

Nintendo needs to divert all power to 1st party game development as it is. Waiting for Pikmin Wii.

What he said.

PSN will remain free but once Home hits people will be able to buy crap for games or their pads or avatars or whatever.

I wonder how much Sony is betting on that. I’d guess quite a lot. They already position the PS3 as a delivery system for BluRay. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar tactic in the online world.

Sony is just stupid enough to charge for PSN by the end of the year. Free matchmaking is one of the few perks the PS3 has over the XBOX, so it’ll really hurt them. I had a plan to buy most multiplatform games on the 360 because of achievement points and it being the apparent lead SKU, but games I would play multiplayer on I’d buy for the PS3. Looks like that’ll change soon.

Yeah. It’s odd that the only console game outside of MMO’s that offers game servers is Resistance.

I guess I should know this being a PS3 owner and all but how broken is the friends list? It feels unified to me. I don’t remember putting in a new tag for Resistance, Calling All Cars, or Motorstorm.

Hm, maybe it’s unified across Sony-published titles?

The tag is the same but the friends lists were separated if I’m not mistaken.