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How Konami's MGS4 May Sneak Around PSN Charges

Why Konami's MGS4 patches use BitTorrent to get around Sony's PSN bandwidth fees.

The revelation that Sony charges publishers for bandwidth on PSN explained what had, previously, been a puzzling part of Sony's PlayStation Network (PSN) business model.

In Invisible Engines by David S. Evans, Andrei Hagiu and Richard Schmalensee, the authors point out how various business models are built around software platforms. In particular, a software business model must choose carefully which groups that access the software (developers, end-users, among others) should pay fees for that access. (More on the book here.)

Console platforms charge developers for access to development software and distribution while end-users get the hardware for near cost.

The Xbox Live platform appears to be subsidized to a great extent by the subscription fees paid by the top-tier users. Since Sony doesn't charge users for access to PSN, the publishers are getting charged.

Long before the public was made aware of Sony's fees, Konami's Metal Gear Online beta was made available to PlayStation 3 users. The small installer client that the user initially downloaded was used to obtain the full beta game via a direct HTTP download or a peer-to-peer BitTorrent client. 

These methods of distribution appear to provide Konami with an end-run around Sony's distribution fees. Given the tremendous interest in Konami's Metal Gear series, they must have known they would face a staggering bill just for a beta test they were giving away for free.

Even now, it appears that patches can be downloaded from within the Metal Gear Online client that comes with Metal Gear Solid 4 using either HTTP or BitTorrent. So even as Konami's software has sold by the millions around the world, it may have minimized the fees owed to Sony.

Which leads us to the creation of the Konami ID system. Metal Gear Online owners are required to have a PlayStation Network ID and a separate Konami ID for playing online. Disgust at this dual-login system is universal. It seems reasonable that Sony required the creation of a system like Konami ID in return for letting Konami work outside the PSN system.

Konami's extra-PSN dabbling may also be a key reason that Metal Gear Solid 4 hasn't received a trophy patch.

The irony here is that Sony has often touted its open PSN model as a desirable alternative to Microsoft's more rigid Xbox Live model. The institution of network bandwidth fees is just one unattractive consequence of Sony's choice.

And, in the case of Metal Gear Online and Metal Gear Solid 4, the publisher may be working around those fees at the expense of convenience and enjoyment of the end-users.

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