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Home » Featured, News

The Price of PSN (for Publishers)

Submitted by on Friday, 20 March 2009No Comment

Free, or not free, that is the questionWe won’t bore you with the history lesson.

Yes, the PSN is free. No, its nearest competitor’s online service is not. But in the great tradition of “there is no such thing as a free download”, news has erupted via MTV Multiplayer today that, since October 2008,  Sony have been charging publishers with what accounts to as an “overhead fee” for every gigabyte that you, the consumer, downloads from the PSN.

Is this another one of Sony’s famous missteps? Will it affect content availability on the PSN versus XBL?

And does this go some way to explain why, in some cases, content that appears on the 360 platform, sometimes never appears on the PSN at all?

Brace yourself as here comes the science bit. The fee Sony places for downloading through the PSN to publishers is 16c per GB. Since this revelation, equations have popped up online willy-nilly depicting just what the real cost is to the likes of Ubisoft and Activision but let’s just say your demo is 1GB and it is downloaded 1 million times (not unheard of for the likes of your Resident Evils and Killzones these days). Such rampant activity would cost the publisher $160,000. Hardly small change by any stretch of the imagination.

With even ardent Sony zealots coming out of the woodwork to rebuke this new policy, we have to take a step back and question just how pernicious this practice actually is. Afterall, a demo is an interactive advertisement for a product that, for the most part, should entice the consumer to purchase the final version. When you think of the marketing budgets for big titles, how much does $160,000 really equate to in terms of total advertising spend? This is not a rhetorical question by the way. This is something we are genuinely interested in finding out.

The issue here is not how this impacts Capcom or EA – the worrying element is how this is affecting the small publisher. Will this new pricing model dissuade the humbler players in thinking twice about making their content available on the PSN? Wasn’t the PSN, with its lack of file size constraints and ubiquitous potential user-base (as long as the user had a broadband connection of course), lauded above its rival for these very reasons? Wasn’t it just simple and clear-cut?

The fact is, we can see both sides of the argument here. We feel for small to medium sized publishers who are now being hit with a charge that, ironically, is tied to just how popular their content is. We also understand that in these turbulent economic times Sony are trying to recuperate as much of the cost of having a “free” online service as possible.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this new pricing arrangement has been in effect for nearly six months now and, up until this point, we have not seen any adverse effects in terms of content mysteriously not appearing on the PSN (at least, no more than usual).

We doubt that this is the last we’ve heard of this story. We’re sure Sony will (eventually) respond to why this new system is now in place, how they calculated the magical figure of 16 cents and maybe even explain the inner workings of what appears, to the layman at least, as a deterrent for creative and burgeoning publishers to use the PSN.

We’ll keep you posted as we hear more.