Having invested money into acquiring Gaikai in 2012, Sony has spent the last decade building the Netflix-esque PlayStation Now. Despite being the first mainstream game streaming service, the player base that actively subscribes to it has remained relatively low. To make matters worse for the publisher, Microsoft’s comparable Xbox Game Pass has grown into one of the most lauded services in gaming despite being on the market for a fraction of the time. While a hefty grain of salt has to be taken when it comes to the likelihood of the rumors coming true, if Netflix and PlayStation are planning a team-up, it might be the perfect way for Sony to fight back against this imbalance.
Last week Netflix shocked the internet with the announcement that it plans on adding video games to the roster of content available on its platform, with the additions coming as early as next year. Considering the transformative impact the subscription service has had over the world of cinema and TV, whatever shape the streaming giant’s plans take could have major ramifications for gaming. If recently unearthed internal IOS assets and images are to believed, a potential partnership with PlayStation could be one the cards the company intends to utilize to get the ball rolling.
Netflix’s Established Market Share
It’s against this backdrop and power dynamic that the potential PlayStation and Netflix partnership might enable Sony to fight back against Microsoft’s burgeoning service. As it stands, Sony has only managed to entice roughly 3.2 million active subscribers into PS Now, which is a drop in the ocean when compared to Netflix’s globe spanning 207 million users. No matter what shape the collaboration takes, if it turns out to be real, one of the biggest things Sony stands to gain is access to is a userbase on a scale that neither platform holder could likely build alone. Even though Sony’s reluctance to port PlayStation Studio produced games to PC immediately suggests users might not be able to play its games on every platform, this is offset by the fact that most people have more than one device that’s capable of launching the streaming app.
PlayStation home consoles have historically never struggled to sell well, with the only two machines to dip below the golden 100 million+ sales figure being the PS3, and the fledgling, supply-constrained PS5. While below the standards set by other Sony machines, the estimated 87 million or so sold of the former is still not an insignificant number in itself, either. When it comes to PlayStation Now and Sony’s attempts to sell game streaming to the public, on the other hand, there’s never been a successful conversion of those numbers into subscribers. Conversely, within the space of 4 years Microsoft has managed to push Game Pass into the hands of 23 million people, with there being no signs of adoption slowing down anytime soon.
The sheer value of Microsoft’s Game Pass has transformed the gaming industry, demonstrating how there’s alternate methods each of the three console manufacturers can employ while still co-existing and being successful. From Sony’s perspective, there’s a possibility though that the current status quo could tip in favor of Xbox if the service continues to grow without competition. Partnering with Netflix and the security its established subscriber numbers represents offers a degree of future proofing if things develop more towards platform agnostic subscription services. When it comes to monetary value, what Sony stands to potentially lose through revenue sharing with Netflix is also offset by the fact that it wouldn’t have to keep investing money into maintaining PS Now.
PlayStation’s Expanded Content
One factor that lends credence to the rumor of a Netflix and Sony gaming collaboration actually happening is the fact that it wouldn’t be the first time that the two companies have worked together. Just this year alone, for example, both parties announced a landmark deal that’s set to ensure Sony Pictures Entertainment movies make their way to the service after traditional stints as theatrical releases. It’s in this area, Netflix’s established film and TV connections, that Sony might be able to find a useful advantage over Microsoft and the gaming-centric Game Pass service.
Over the last few years, Sony as a wider entity has started to lean into the success of PlayStation and internally developed IPs more heavily. That process has in part led to a re-emergence of the PlayStation Productions studio, which is now overseeing a whole slate of gaming adaptions based on the likes of The Last of Us, Twisted Metal, and several other projects. Partnering with Netflix therefore offers an opportunity for Sony to eventually promote these creations through the service, whilst simultaneously enabling viewers to presumably pick up a controller and stream the original games once they’ve finished watching. There’s already signs that both parties involved are contemplating this symbiotic marketing strategy. It seems highly unlikely to be a coincidence that the official cover art for Ghost of Tsushima was found within the IOS Netflix app data mine, considering a movie adaptation of Sucker Punch’s game is currently in the early stages of pre-production. Having already supported the creation of a wide array of gaming adaptations, including franchises like Resident Evil and Castlevania, there’s a chance that Netflix itself might be willing to directly assist the creation of PlayStation-themed shows in the future.
The sheer diversity of the potential content that the partnership could bundle together is one area that Game Pass currently can’t compete in. Based on Microsoft’s carefully chosen naming convention for its service, and commitment to produce more exclusive games, it seems unlikely that will change anytime soon. Despite the long anticipated Halo TV series finally being slated for release early next year, right now it appears that Microsoft is comfortable letting the likes of Paramount handle distribution rights. Having a mix of games, TV shows, and films available through Netflix would enable to Sony to promote the collaboration as being a more feature-complete subscription in comparison. Netflix’s Gaming Potential
netflix official art
One way that Microsoft has been able to build consumer good will is by ensuring that subscribers can simultaneously access their Game Pass content across Xbox Series machines, Xbox One, PC, and mobile. However, Netflix’s recent promise that all future gaming content will be available to subscribers at no additional charge is one way that Sony could potentially benefit against its rival. Not having to pay an additional subscription price to access PlayStation content is enough of an enticing proposition, as it ensures a lot of people will access the feature. One of the biggest stumbling blocks that both parties might need to consider, though, is the possibility that a DualSense controller could be needed in order to play games based on the leaked internal assets.
What shape Netflix’s gaming push takes in general remains to be seen, as Mike Verdu’s assertion that some form of mobile content will be included is all that is really known. How Sony factors into those plans, if it even ends up doing so at all, is an even bigger question. If PlayStation games do become included, though, there’s a chance that the 800 or so games from the PS2, PS3, and PS4 eras that are currently available on PS Now might automatically get rolled into the service. With Xbox’s Game Pass offering Microsoft first-party content day-and-day, alongside third party games and EA access content, there’s the making of a titanic fight between two packed subscription services if the Netflix rumor proves true.