Why PlayStation’s Cross-Platform and Live-Service Pushes Should Be Synonymous

Why PlayStation’s Cross-Platform and Live-Service Pushes
Adobe Stock Image; Yinchen Niu/VIP+

Ahead of the Summer Game Fest showcase that kicks off June 9, Sony Interactive Entertainment held another State of Play presentation Thursday, showing off a selection of upcoming PlayStation releases from third-party publishers as well as big titles for its unreleased PSVR 2 headset.

Capcom’s multiplatform remake of gaming classic “Resident Evil 4” and Square Enix’s “Final Fantasy XVI,” a timed exclusive for PlayStation 5, comprised the biggest announcements, but one reveal on the PC front also stood out.

2018’s “Marvel’s Spider-Man” and 2020’s “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” both developed by Insomniac Games, are the latest first-party titles from PlayStation Studios to release on PC as part of an ongoing initiative to expand the company’s revenue streams via cross-platform sales. Per PlayStation, its “Spider-Man” games have sold more than 33 million units as of May 15.

With the PC versions of these games scheduled to release in 2022, it makes sense that Sony projects a 275% year-over-year jump to $300 million in PC net sales for its current fiscal year. Prior PC releases of first-party titles like “Horizon Zero Dawn” and “God of War” generated $60 million and $26 million in revenue, respectively, per Sony.

This is a clear sign that embracing a cross-platform-friendly strategy is a good move for Sony. 

But another strategy shift is still in its early stages and could be essential to furthering cross-platform revenue opportunities, if Sony plays its cards right.

Per investor briefings in May, Sony detailed the live-service push underway at its Game & Network Services segment, which houses Sony Interactive Entertainment and PlayStation. The company projects there will be as many as 12 live-service franchises receiving ongoing updates as a means of driving up in-game spend by fiscal-year 2025, so as not to rely primarily on third-party games like “Fortnite,” whose developer and publisher Epic Games just secured a new $1 billion investment from Sony.

As of the last fiscal year, “MLB The Show 22” is the only first-party game on SIE’s docket operating as a live service. The last two “MLB The Show” games have also been available on Xbox consoles, a rarity for SIE’s first-party catalog that was reportedly instigated by MLB, not SIE itself.

Sony is correctly inclined to be protective of PlayStation games’ exclusivity. While it’s embraced bringing SIE games to PC, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X consoles remain a direct competitor to PlayStation 5, sales of which continue to be hampered by supply chain constraints linked to semiconductor chip shortages.

Sony missed its own cumulative PS5 sale projections for the end of March by 3.3 million units, per its earnings announcement in May, putting more pressure on upcoming console exclusives to ensure gamers remain patient and wait for availability, rather than go for a new Xbox to gain quicker access to what the next generation of console gaming has to offer. If more first-party SIE titles were available on Xbox amid the shortage, that would hinder console sales that much further.

Still, the company clearly wants to sell more games. Live services, many of which promote cross-play between different platforms, would be a great way to expand the PlayStation brand to Xbox and cash in on in-game purchases without tarnishing the exclusivity of single-player hits. “Destiny 2” will become an immediate test case for such an endeavor when Sony’s acquisition Bungie closes, as the co-op shooter will remain multiplatform, but there’s an even greater opportunity on the horizon.

Production for HBO’s TV adaptation of PlayStation exclusive “The Last of Us” is scheduled to wrap next week, per Directors Guild of Canada filings. The post-apocalyptic show will debut in 2023, while more “The Last of Us” content on the gaming side is also on the way.

A remake of the original 2013 game that was confirmed in April is rumored to be eyeing a release in 2022 as studio Naughty Dog continues work on a live-service game expected to be an expansion of the multiplayer mode featured in “The Last of Us” that did not return for 2020’s “The Last of Us Part II.”

Whatever this multiplayer game ends up being, what’s stopping SIE from sending it to multiple platforms if the related IP is about to get a high-profile TV version that could draw in millions of new fans? Taking it even further, why not make the upcoming remake of “The Last of Us” available beyond PS5 consoles from launch to further take advantage of the heightened awareness?

The original game and its remastered version for PS4 have remained exclusive to PlayStation for nearly a decade at this point, so if SIE is looking for an opportunity to boost in-game and cross-platform spending beyond what Bungie will soon bring in, this is as good a chance as ever.