On Tuesday, Sony made a stir when it announced that its free PlayStation Network had attained 14 million "active users." The number, revealed to celebrate the PlayStation 3's second birthday, was remarkable, as it appeared to match the 14-million-strong subscriber base for the pay-to-play Xbox Live. Microsoft's online service launched in 2002 and has been a central pillar of its strategy since the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, one year before the PS3.
Three days later, Sony has now clarified what exactly it counts as an active PlayStation Network user. "Seeing as PlayStation Portable does include PlayStation Network services (i.e. games store natively on PSP), yes those numbers do include all PlayStation Network registrations," said a Sony representative.
The rep also said, to guard against duplication, Sony does not count a registration made on the PS3 and then used on the PSP (or vice versa) as two accounts. Like with Xbox Live, the figure also includes multiple accounts used on the same console or in the same household.
So how many PSN users are logging on via the PS3? Sony declined to release any specific numbers, preferring to play up the PS3's rising registration rate. "We've seen an increase in unique [PS3] consoles registered for PSN compared to the sell through rate, which means we are seeing more PlayStation 3 owners who didn't previously register, do so lately, based on the new features we've added to PSN, such as Video Store and Trophies," said the rep.
IDC game-industry analyst Billy Pidgeon concurs, estimating that PS3 PSN registration has skyrocketed 160 percent since January 2008. That said, he still estimates that only around 50 percent of PS3s have logged onto PSN, versus 60 percent for Xbox Live. With Sony announcing last month that 17 million PS3s have been sold worldwide, Pidgeon's estimate pegs the number of PS3-based PSN users at 8.5 million, not 14 million. "Remember, though, they're not claiming that every account is a connected PS3," he told GameSpot.
However, as a veteran of game-industry analysis, Pidgeon knows that the tide can turn. "Sony has released some numbers for SOCOM and Resistance 2 that are pretty impressive in terms of concurrent users," he elaborated. "It's got a ways to go until they get to the level where they're putting out their PSN IDs, but that's changing with Little Big Planet. When the beta for that launched, that's when people really started wanting to connect with people online, and that's really promising."