It seems that the next big battlefield for gaming consoles will be the sports field. As online gaming becomes the next target of the gaming giants each company is slowly devising their own online sports game strategy.
Sony, whose PlayStation 2 dominates the market, has had to face a slow but steady gnawing of its sports game market by the competition. In order to freshen up its hold on that side of gaming the Japanese giant said it would launch a service allowing its sports game players to compete online.
Through 989SportsOnline.com, expected to launch Aug. 26 to coincide with the release of NFL GameDay 2004, Sony will offer an online service featuring message boards, tournaments, downloadable rosters and player rankings, letting users conduct voice chats with a PS2 headset.
It will also offer a unified login, so players can access the site with one username and password no matter which 989 Sports game they are playing.
Although exciting as a prospect, Sony's service was scheduled to reach users a day behind Microsoft's Xbox Live revamp, which promises to allow subscribers to conduct voice chats without being in an actual game. Part of the revamping of the XBox Live service also includes the company's own Sports service, XSN Sports. Recent news however, suggests that Microsoft may delay the launch until mid-September, allowing Sony to gain a short but significant lead if they do launch on time.
The Xmain difference between Xbox Live and Sony's online services is that MS provides a total service by running all the servers and collecting the subscription fees for every game while Sony runs a decentralized service, with publishers operating online services and charging at their discretion.
This difference in approach has caused Microsoft the online power supplied by the world's leader in sports games, Electronic Arts. EA dominates sports gaming, and will be putting all of its sports titles online on the PS2 this year, through its EA Sports Nation service.
EA has will not support, up to this point, Xbox Live for its sports games, claiming that Microsoft's business model is not a fair one.
It seems that, once again, Microsoft will have to face the rest of the gaming market, which for the time being seems to be much better equipped with a series of extremely successful titles. Unfortunately, Nintendo is knowhere to be seen in this new gaming battleground.