PlayStation will add the ability to save games online through a cloud service hosted by the platform owner. Cloud saves are live for all PlayStation Plus subscribers following a firmware update made available on March 10, 2011. PlayStation has not released any data relating to PS Plus subscriber numbers. IHS Screen Digest believes there will be 36m active online PS3s by the end of 2011, however PS Plus subscribers are likely to account for a single digit percentage of active online consoles.
PlayStation is the first among the console manufacturers to offer cloud saves and has earned a significant differentiating feature from Xbox Live as a result (the other major differentiator being region-specific catch-up TV). Gamers will be able to back up selected games saves in the PSN cloud and access them from remotely. While useful for PS3 owners, IHS Screen Digest expects the service to be extended to Sony's forthcoming handheld platform "NGP". Cloud saves also enable the ability to start playing a game at home on a PS3 and continuing gameplay while on the move on a handheld console (most likely to be the NGP rather than PSP).
Cloud saves are only for PlayStation Plus subscribers but their availability is unlikely to have a major impact on subscriber acquisition. PlayStation has not released any data on PS Plus subscriber numbers: IHS Screen Digest believes subscriber numbers are minimal compared to free users however growth is likely to be steady as long as Sony continues to improve the value proposition of the service. Publishers have been encouraged by relatively high take up rates of offers targeting PS Plus subscribers.
From a wider angle perspective the console manufacturers have now developed well entrenched digital platform strategies, which tie together numerous games-related services and methods of monetising digital media. The table below looks at the availability of features across Nintendo WFC, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. IHS Screen Digest will examine these platforms as well as the key PC-oriented equivalents in greater detail going forward in 2011.
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