Free access to online play has been a selling point for the PlayStation 3 since launch but at a Sony investors conference being held today, Sony directors will hint at a "new revenue stream from subscription" in one of the PSN presentation slides. You can view the presentation slides in context with your own eyes at Sony's business site.
At launch the PSN experience paled in comparison to the offerings of Xbox Live and, up until recently, it was easy to understand why the service remained free juxtaposed against Microsoft's subscription prices. However, the PSN has made significant strides lately in closing the gap between the networks. Online play isn't the laggy empty experience it was at launch. The PSN Store has a number of terrific exclusives: Fat Princess, Flower, and WipeOutHD, among others. In addition, Sony has added complimentary Netflix and Facebook support, with plans for full integration into the XMB. In terms of sales, with over a million PS3 Slims, each one possessing no barrier to online play, now out in the wild, it's easy to see Sony's network has a lot of momentum.
But would Sony charge a subscription fee for future premium PSN use? The answer is no. Sony is running with the console war ball right now, they're finally hitting a stride, there's absolutely no way they'd segment their user base in this key moment, or in the foreseeable future, as they coax Xboxers away from Microsoft or tempt casual gamers with selling points such as Blu-ray and free online play. The difference is most Xbox customers knew what they were signing up for when they purchased an Xbox, whereas Sony customers have already been sold a console with the expectation that online features are complimentary.
So what is the "new revenue stream from subscription"? I'd be more inclined to think it'll be a premium application package including Hulu support (or some other streaming television service) or possibly an updated, and useful, version of Qore. Whatever it is, the service will add new features, not take away anything PS3 owners are already enjoying for free.
What do you think the "new revenue stream" will be?