While the PlayStation 2 has been the top-selling current-generation console in the gaming market, it never had a powerful online gaming service like Microsoft's Xbox Live. That will change later this year, when Sony Computer Entertainment debuts a long-rumoured online service simultaneously with the PlayStation 3's worldwide launch in early November.
Overnight at the 2006 PlayStation Business Briefing in Tokyo, SCE president Ken Kutaragi unveiled the new network service, tentatively titled the PlayStation Network Platform. The service is currently being co-developed with Sony Online Entertainment. SOE currently runs the Station.com online gaming site, which provides the infrastructure for a series of PC massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as EverQuest II, Star Wars Galaxies, and PlanetSide. It also provides the infrastructure for online play of the PS2 games Champions of Norrath and its sequel, as well as PSP games such as Untold Legends: The Warriors Code and the forthcoming Field Commander.
Basic services for the PSNP will initially be free, like Xbox Live Silver. However, unlike Microsoft's entry-level online service, which doesn't allow gameplay, the basic level of PSNP will provide gamers with the necessary services and functions required for online gaming, according to Kutaragi.
Also unlike Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network Platform will allow licensees to connect their own game servers to the network. SCE will provide a common infrastructure for the service, but the PSNP will use the standard Internet. Unlike with Xbox Live, licensees will be able to connect their own game servers to the PSNP.
PlayStation Network Platform will feature the standard set of communication and gameplay functionalities, including video chat, messaging, matchmaking, ranking, and game data upload and download. PS3 owners will also be able to purchase content via an Xbox Live Marketplace-like download service.
Despite rumors that Sony will make its back catalogue of PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games available for download, Kutaragi did not specifically say whether games would be offered as a part of the PSNP's online commerce functions. However, given the success of retro games on Xbox Live Arcade, such a move is likely, as indicated by the announced ability to boot games from the PS3 HDD.
Interestingly, part of the PSNP's commerce functionality is called "selling item by item". Since SOE runs an online auction house that lets players of its massively multiplayer online role-playing games sell in-game items for cash, this raises the possibility that gamers could sell game items to each other over the PSNP. Sony had not confirmed said functionality as of press time.
The full list of planned services for the PlayStation Network Platform is as follows:
- Account created through user registration
- Game data upload/download
- Presence/Friend List/Avatar
- Voice/Video Chat
- Shops (can be accessed from inside games)
- Content Download
- Game boot from HDD
- Selling item by item
- Entitlement Management
- User Registration
- Login ID/Handlename issue
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