Sony is now billing publishers for data transfer over PlayStation 3's PlayStation Network, the only such fee for content holders among the major platform holders.
The policy, first reported by MTV Multiplayer
and verified by Gamasutra's own sources, was established in October 2008 and institutes a 16-cent per gigabyte fee for all downloadable PSN content.
Free content only racks up charges during its first 60 days of availability, but paid content remains metered indefinitely.
Console competitors Microsoft and Nintendo do not charge publishers for bandwidth, although both also host downloadable content on their own servers. Microsoft likely covers those costs with its Xbox Live Gold revenues, while Nintendo -- which limits Wii downloadable content to much smaller sizes than either Sony or Microsoft -- is content to foot the bill itself.
Major PC-based digital distribution services like Steam and Direct2Drive also do not have an equivalent bandwidth fee.
At $0.16 per gigabyte, Sony's rates are relatively in line with low-volume content delivery rates maintained by on-demand services. Amazon's S3, for example, has a range of $0.17 per gigabyte down to $0.10 per gigabyte, depending on total monthly volume.
Given 1.5 million PSN downloads of the Resident Evil 5
demo (which was said to have been download a total of 4 million times across Xbox Live and PSN) at 942MB -- more than twice the size of its Live counterpart, oddly -- Capcom would see PSN bandwidth fees of $226,080. Using Amazon's progressive scale, that same volume of transfer would run only about $143,700. That figure would likely drop considerably more if using a high-volume commercial host.
The policy could affect the size and type of content publishers host on PlayStation Network, depending on how much it impacts the bottom line.
"It definitely makes us think about how we view the distribution of content related to our games when it is free for us to do it on the web, on Xbox Live, or any other way -- including broadcast -- than on Sony’s platform," an unnamed publishing source said to MTV Multiplayer. "It’s a new thing we have to budget. It’s not cool. It sucks."
Still, Sony claims that publishers are hosting the same level of content regardless.
"We work closely with them to bring their amazing content to our growing audience, and we are focused on ensuring we, and our publishing partners, have a viable platform for digital distribution," said Sony spokesperson Patrick Seybold. "We foresee no change in the high quality or quantity of demos and games available on PSN."
Publishers may rethink those practices depending on the long-term implications of the fees.
"It’s like leaving your phone off the hook for a long distance call," said another unnamed publisher source. "The meter is still running."