GoNintendo 'End of Day' thought - Destin Feature: Does Microsoft have a lock on the online market?


Spent Saturday at a family party and hanging with friends, spent Sunday doing taxes! Talk about mixing business with pleasure. At least those taxes are out of the way…so I can worry about next year! Hope you all had a great weekend. I think we should have a weekend every 5 days…what do you think?! See you in a few, short hours. - RMC


I have a question for all of you and I can’t answer it alone.  I was wondering about the different online services offered by Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft namely that you pay for one while the others have remained (for the most part) free.  The question I’m trying to answer is, “Does Microsoft have a lock on the ‘pay to be online’ market?”  Think about it.  Could Nintendo or Sony break into that type of online scheme today and see any success?  I personally believe that the backlash would be catastrophic.

Xbox Live is a service that Microsoft began offering in 2002 on the original XBox.  It was offered to XBox owners for $50 a year and quickly became the benchmark for online entertainment.  Fast forward to today and now a similar service is offered on the PlayStation 3, and Nintendo seems to be coming around with their 3DS interface.  Nintendo offers this at no additional cost to the user, as does Sony, but what if they wanted to offer a refined service with additional features at a cost to the user?  Would it be successful?


Sony did something close when they began offering PlayStation Plus on June 29th, 2010.  Sony’s service allows you full game trials, automatic downloads of items like firmware and demos, store discounts, early demo access, beta invitations, select free game downloads and more.  You even get a free subscription to Qore, their monthly “lifestyle gaming program.”

Unfortunately we have no statistics to determine how well the service has fared.  Sony has been purposefully vague with their statistics saying only that they have 60 million users, 20 million of which signed up in 2010.  The problem with these numbers are that they don’t specify which users are paid users, which are secondary accounts and how many are active.  It’s simply misleading to anyone that’s trying to gauge how well their service has done.  It’s like saying you shipped 5 million units, when in reality you only sold 10,000.

Now Microsoft on the other hand revealed that they have 30 million active XBox Live members during CES 2011.  At least this number tells us that there’s 30 million members actively using XBox live.  Active as in accounts that haven’t just been made and then left to die.  I’m going off on a tangent though as none of this matters.

What matters is that Sony has tried to tap into Microsoft’s online market.  I’m just wondering if they’ve been successful.  Let’s assume that out of the 20 million people registered in 2010 that 5 million are subscribers.  That means only 8.3% out of the 60 million are willing to pay for the service.  Granted it could be larger than 5 million I’m completely guessing there, but that doesn’t sound like a success to me.  I wish Sony and Microsoft would release some accurate numbers so I could measure up their audiences better.


Finally we’re left with Nintendo.  They’re the last company that has remained free and hasn’t resorted to offering an online component that promises some perks for some cash.  Could they break into this market?  Should they?  I don’t know.  I’d like to think that Nintendo has instead decided to offer the best services they possibly can to all of their loyal patrons.  Honestly one of the things I’m most excited to see with the 3DS is this new friend system they plan on implementing.  I’m guessing it’s a baby step to incorporating an all new way for their users to communicate, and if it works well on the handheld, we’ll most likely be seeing it on their next console.

So with little or no data to accurately support my argument I’m going to ask that you instead help me answer the question.  So I leave you with this.  How would you feel if Nintendo suddenly offered online only to those with a “Gold” membership, or if they offered a service similar to PlayStation Plus?  Would you sign up or is Microsoft the only one who can get away with it?

To be free or not to be free?  That is the question.  I’ll see you in the comments.

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