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PlayStation 2 getting online options

Taking its next strategic step in the U.S. video game market, Sony says it will launch online services this summer for its market-leading console.

Sony on Thursday took its next strategic step in the U.S. video game market, saying it will launch online services for its market-leading PlayStation 2 in August.

Analysts had expected Sony to launch the online service, a longtime goal for the company since the U.S. release of the PlayStation 2 in November 2000. Sony said it will begin testing the games this month.

Although the PlayStation 2 does not have built-in network capabilities, it does contain other high-speed expansion ports. The company said it would begin selling a network adapter for $39.99 in August.

That adapter will have ports for both a dial-up modem and a broadband connection, allowing both low- and high-speed access. Sony did not say if the adapter would plug into one of the PlayStation 2's two USB ports, or if it would slide into a larger port on the back that can also accommodate a hard drive.

Microsoft launched its new Xbox console in November with a built-in Ethernet port. The software giant said it would launch online services this year.

The adapter bundle will come with a start-up disc pre-configured for a number of major Internet Service Providers, including EarthLink and SBC Communications, though Sony said any ISP could be used with the service.

The only console online gaming service offered in the United States is one for Sega's now-discontinued Dreamcast console. The Dreamcast had a dial-up modem built in; a broadband adapter released later was largely unsuccessful.

With Sony's announcement, the only major console in the U.S. market without any online options is Nintendo's GameCube. The $199 GameCube, released in November, has no built-in access ports. Nintendo has said little about online plans for the console.

Story Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.