Imsominaic leaks reveal Playstation lost 3M MAU over the last three years. At a time when gaming is at its grandest heights, consoles have failed to seize the moment. Sony and Microsoft have forgotten their role as platforms, purchasing dead-end franchises instead of fostering third-party innovation. Meanwhile, Steam gained over 90M users, a ~35% increase over the same period, with Valve founder Gabe Newell downing New Zealand pies as third-party development rakes in billions as Valve barely lifts a finger.
Sony’s lavish string of single-player blockbuster titles like God of War, Spider-Man, and Zero Horizon Dawn certainly have positive ROI, but another ten years of $300M roulette spins (budgets also leaked) hardly feels digestible. It’s a near miracle these titles performed critically well as they have, illustrating why Sony executives rush toward live-service investments. For its part, Microsoft squandered Gears of War and Halo while Minecraft lingers in the shadows of Fortnite Creative and Roblox. Console is no longer where titles like Geometry Wars, Rock Band, and Tony Hawk found their home. Instead, Steam has become the beacon for innovation.
Vampire Survivors, Sons of the Forest (the top-selling Steam game of 2023), and Valheim all started in Steam Early Access. Sony and Microsoft are so focused on stacking their bench with billion-dollar acquisitions that they’ve forgotten they’re a platform, with the lack of modding and robust early access programs telling. Bill Gates reminds us, “A platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it, exceeds the value of the company that creates it.” Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft likely flunk this test.
Steam’s success is so domineering major publishers crawled back to Steam, with Apex’s Steam launch netting Valve hundreds of millions since its launch. Even Blizzard was desperate enough to release Overwatch 2 on Steam, while Microsoft gave up and made Halo a Steam product in 2019, with Sony scoring another 3M in Zero Horizon unit sales (also leaked).
The picture becomes a breaker with the advent of Fortnite Creative and Roblox. While both have console homes, they shift distribution and discovery to UGC platforms, weakening console control. They both play on mobile, and more titles find the dual-SKU strategy viable. Genshin’s mobile gross exceeds console, with Honkai Star Rail arriving on PlayStation six months after its mobile release.
At the very least, Microsoft dies on a semi-coherent total addressable market growth strategy in the cloud and Game Pass. The best Sony can muster is a dilapidated PSP VPN revival and a VR headset reminiscent of Virtual Boy. Sony’s mismanaged live-service approach isn’t enough to grow consoles.
To regain their lost crown, both giants must embrace their roots as the first and best platforms for discovery and development, a role they’ve neglected for over a decade.