PlayStation Now’s continued growth was one of the factors that led to Sony’s ¥2.3 trillion yen ($20.7 billion USD) in sales for its Game and Network Services segment in the 2018 fiscal year, the company revealed in its earnings announcements on Friday.
For 2018, PlayStation 4 console sales were down. But, overall sales still increased 19% from the prior year “mainly due to an increase in game software and network services revenue,” according to Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki. The PlayStation Now network service has increased in popularity since downloading offered titles was introduced last year.
PlayStation Now is Sony’s cloud gaming service which launched in 2014. The service is a subscription-based model, in which consumers can purchase a monthly membership for $19.99 and get access to stream over 750 PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games. Anticipating the future interest in game streaming, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) purchase Gaikai in 2012. A smart move, as Gaikai would have likely been a competitor as it offered game streaming. SIE’s purchase of the company meant that it acquired Gaikai’s technology and intellectual property (IP) for itself.
In the five years since PlayStation Now launched, the membership has grown about 40% on average each year. Now, the service has about 700,000 subscribers.
The report also found that downloading PlayStation Now titles is increasingly popular. Though streaming is convenient, it also could provide a lag-filled play experience if users have a weak network connection.
The download service for PlayStation Now launched in September of 2018, and since its release, the gameplay time of PS Now titles per user has grown, according to the report.
“Since the launch of this download service,” Totoki said. “Gameplay time per user has grown significantly to the point where gameplay time on downloaded PS4 titles is double that of streamed titles, a trend which has contributed to higher user engagement with, and retention on, the PS Now service.”
Sony will further discuss its vision for PlayStation’s place in the cloud gaming space in May, at the company’s Corporate Strategy Meeting and IR Day.
Looking ahead, Sony expects operating income to decrease in the fiscal year 2019, due to increased development expenses around its next generation console. Further, there are less first-party games coming out compared to 2018, which was helped significantly by PlayStation 4 exclusives like “God of War.”