Snackbar Speculator: Net Profits

November 1, 2009

Welcome to the first edition of Snackbar Speculator, where we present you with the biggest and latest rumors and tell you how likely we think they are to actually happen. We’ll summarize each rumor for you and then Snackbar’s Andrew Passafiume, Graham Russell and Shawn Vermette will weigh in on what we think of each rumor and how likely, or unlikely, we consider each rumor. We’ll also revisit rumors in later editions once they are confirmed or denied and keep track of how accurate each of us are in our predictions.

For our introductory edition, we’re covering some new rumors, some recycled rumors, and perhaps even a rumor that will anger you. 

PS3 Cross-game Chat

According to a recent, and now deleted, post by a staffer at Naughty Dog, the next PS3 firmware update will finally allow for cross-game chat over PSN. This rumor has surfaced many times before, but has yet to come to fruition.

Andrew Passafiume: With this being such a popular option for Xbox 360 owners, and how frequently it is demanded, I can’t see this NOT happening. Although a lot of PS3 users who play online do not have headsets, I could see it still being a very useful and frequently used feature. 95%

Graham Russell: Internal dev teams have talked about it, and it’s certainly technically feasible with a firmware update.  This isn’t a money thing, and it isn’t a PR thing, so there are no barriers to implementation when they get it working. 70%

Shawn Vermette: Hm…Sony likes to promote how the Playstation Network offers all the features of Xbox Live without the monthly fees, but that just isn’t the case. Offering cross-game chat would go a long way toward evening the online playing field. However, Sony has also had three years to get this implemented and there is no way it would have taken them this long if they truly thought it was something worth doing. 65%

PSP Digital Rental Service

Sony has added new information sections to the PSP Games on the PSN that are identical to the ones used for their video rental download service. Notably, a web survey surfaced a few months ago detailing a subscription rental plan that would allow members to download a certain number of PSP games per payment cycle.

Andrew: This seems like it would be an interesting service, especially considering the recent launch of the PSP Go. Something like this might encourage more people to check out the Go. Although I think this all depends on the success if the Go itself, since something like this might rely on a huge fan base of that system. And considering the sales of the Go are pretty much up in the air right now, it’s hard to say. 50%

Graham: While this is something they’re capable of, subscription services tend to hurt only one party: the publishers.  It’s true with Netflix, and it’s true with Gamefly.  It could be okay if it was really expensive, but then no one would want it.  I still can’t rule out Sony being illogical, though.  20%

Shawn: Sony seems to really be trying to push this digital distribution thing with the PSPGo so why not introduce something like this? Especially after the whole fiasco over transferring UMD games over to digital copies bit Sony very hard just a week before the PSPGo was released. Considering it can do nothing but make even more money for Sony(and considering it would be accessible by the PSP Go or regular PSP), this seems like a shoo-in to happen. 100%

Xbox Live Gold Membership Price Hike

Industry analyst Michael Pachter theorized recently that Microsoft could raise the price for their Xbox Live Gold membership from $50/year to $100/year in the near future in order to reap more profit from their online subscriptions. In response, Microsoft stated that they foresaw no scenarios where they would double the price of Xbox Live in the next couple months.

Andrew: Considering how many people pay for Xbox Live a year, I can see this being a very real possibility. Although I doubt it will happen in the near future, I can see it possibly happening within the next few years. But at the same time, Microsoft could lose a lot of Xbox Live support from people who feel like a price increase might be a betrayal. 65%

Graham: This is a really bad idea for Microsoft.  One of the key talking points for Sony purists is that PSN is free and full Live access costs money.  Double that money at the same time the PS3 has a price drop and some high-profile titles, and this quick cash grab may make the 360 lose some ground in the console war. 5%

Shawn: To me, the fact that Microsoft actually commented on this rumor is very important to me. It means that they have seriously considering doubling the price of Xbox Live. At the same time though, I think that Microsoft has done a very good job of paying attention to consumer chatter, and I believe they realize that doing so could either increase the amount of time and games people play on their PS3, if they have both systems, or cause people to skip over the Xbox 360 for the PS3 when deciding on a console purchase. I believe it will happen eventually, I just don’t believe it will happen until the next console cycle. 15%

Microsoft to Package Natal With Xbox 360

Rumors have abounded since E3 regarding Project Natal, so of course, we had to include one of the more recent ones here.

According to Mark Rein at Epic Games, Microsoft plans to package Natal in with every Xbox 360 they sell, once it is released, and that they then hope to sell Natal to everyone who has already purchased an Xbox 360. With dozens of developers signed up to incorporate Natal into their games, surely Microsoft has told them something regarding their launch plans…wouldn’t you think?

Andrew: I can’t see this not happening, especially considering how Microsoft will be marketing the Natal. Whether or not it will be a success does not matter, with the right amount of support, Project Natal can become a huge hit for Microsoft and bring a brand new audience to the system. And I think it’s clear that Microsoft has been trying to do it for years. 100%

Graham: There’s absolutely going to be a bundle, and it’s going to be pretty common.  I don’t know if it will be in every SKU like Rein thinks, but they’d be crazy not to put together a box that just directly competes with the Wii. 90%

Shawn: Considering the effort, time, and money Microsoft is putting into developing Natal, I have a hard time believing Microsoft wouldn’t also do anything they could to give it the best chance of succeeding and taking off. Additionally, considering the amount of developer support Microsoft has been attempting to secure, it also makes sense that they would promise a way to make sure there will be a reasonably large sized user base to sell their games to. 100%