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Sony to offer rewards for playing games on PS3

Program for PlayStation 3 owners will deliver rewards based on the amount of time they play games, download content from the PlayStation Network, or engage in other activities on the console.

Starting tomorrow, some PlayStation Plus and Gamer Advisory Panel members can start earning rewards for using their PlayStation 3 consoles.

Sony announced a new program today, called PlayStation Rewards, which will provide gamers with the opportunity to earn freebies based on playing games, buying PlayStation Network content, downloading movies and television shows, and more.

Sony said that it will offer three reward tiers: Select, Pro, and Legendary. Gamers will have a pane in their profile page that they can consult to see how close they are to reaching those tiers. As players progress from the Select tier to Pro and Legendary by increasing "their level of engagement and actions across the PlayStation ecosystem," they will receive better rewards. Sony wasn't too forthcoming with what it will offer gamers, but it did say that players could earn PlayStation Network avatars, PlayStation Home content, and the chance to participate in giveaways and sweepstakes.

The game company was quick to point out that signing up for the rewards program is free, but it didn't provide details on how much gamers would need to use their consoles to start earning gifts.

That said, it has some time to divulge that information. The company's PlayStation Rewards won't be available to the entire PS3 community until spring. PlayStation Plus and Gamer Advisory Panel members can use the service starting tomorrow by invite only. Sony said that it plans to offer PSP owners access to the program "over time."

Sony says its new rewards program gives the company a chance to show "appreciation" for its customers, but it also seems like a not-so-covert way to entice more people to use its console. Unfortunately for the company, that hasn't been so easy. The PlayStation 3 started slowly in this console generation and hasn't been able to fully recover.

In September, the console's sales were down compared to last year, market research firm NPD reported. Only the Xbox 360 enjoyed stronger year-over-year sales. In fact, NPD found that so far this year, Microsoft's console sales are up 34 percent compared to 2009.