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PlayStation Plus has lost 1.9M subscribers since relaunch

Is the service struggling, or are wider issues to blame?

The PlayStation Plus logo (a plus sign with PlayStation shapes) on a purple-blue background Image: James Bareham/Polygon
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

In its latest set of financial results, Sony has revealed that PlayStation Plus lost nearly 2 million subscribers between July and September 2022, following its relaunch in June.

The number of people subscribing to the service fell from 47.3 million to 45.4 million after Sony added tiers to the service, which at its most basic level offers online gaming, additional features like cloud saves, and a handful of free games a month. The new tiers provide access to a large catalog of PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 games at Extra level, and to classic games and game streaming at the Premium level.

It’s not all bad news for Sony. Despite the number of PlayStation Plus users declining — and overall monthly active users also going down, from 103 million to 102 million — network services revenue, which includes PS Plus subscription revenue, increased by 10%. This is presumably due in part to users signing up for higher tiers.

In comments during an earnings call, transcribed by VGC, Sony chief financial officer Hiroki Totoki admitted that “there hasn’t been a great momentum as a whole” for the renewed service. He allowed that Sony hadn’t aggressively promoted it and predicted a recovery following “better promotions” in the future.

In general, Sony’s results and Totoki’s comments paint a picture of a company weathering a tough period, with “more people going outdoors” as the coronavirus pandemic eases, a dry games release schedule, and constrained supply of new PlayStation 5 consoles due to chip shortages. Halfway through its financial year, the company has only managed to sell 5.7 million of the 18 million consoles it targeted for the full year.

However, by most accounts, the PS5 stock situation is rapidly improving. Sony said it had manufactured 6.5 million consoles during the last quarter, and still thought it could hit its 18 million target. With the recent release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and with red-hot exclusive God of War Ragnarok just around the corner, Sony finally has some big games to sell — and a steady supply of consoles to sell with them. PlayStation is likely to be reporting much better numbers next quarter.

The question is whether these market conditions are at the root of the declining use of PlayStation Plus, or whether the service has deeper problems. The revamped service has been criticized for its confusing, piecemeal subscription tiers and weak classic game offering. It’s often compared with Microsoft’s Game Pass, which most agree is better marketed: Game Pass’ software catalog is consistent across all tiers, with the top Ultimate tier combining console, PC, cloud, and online pay, while the game selection is better curated and, unlike PlayStation Plus, offers new releases on day one, including some major exclusives — something Sony has ruled out for PS Plus.

Game Pass subscriptions sat at 25 million in January 2022, which is considerably lower than PlayStation Plus, but the comparison is not like-for-like — Xbox Live Gold, Microsoft’s basic online-play option, is not included, and the number of Gold subscribers is not reported by Microsoft. Microsoft’s reporting is more opaque than Sony’s, so it is tough to say whether Game Pass is really performing any better.

The true test of the revamped PlayStation Plus will be to see whether subscriber numbers bounce back in line with the expected increase in PS5 sales and overall active users in the near future. We’ll find out in three months’ time.

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