Following up on the recent Broadband announcement for Japan, Sony have confirmed that they are about to begin testing online services in the US for the PS2 this month.
Analysts had expected online services for the PS2 from as early as November 2000 but Sony held back the release. Many suggest that the delay was not due to technical or compatibility reasons but a strategic move in order to wait for the other competitors to reveal their plans. Now, following the hype and fuss raised about the next generation consoles from Microsoft and Nintendo, Sony re-claim some of the spot-light with this announcement.
Evidence of this is present in the price of the network adapter which will be made available in August 2002 for a mere US$39.99. Sony have seen that the XBox carries built in networking options and have decided to keep the adaptor accessible. Lessons learnt from Dreamcast's failure to make Broadband an attractive option are now proving valuable.
Analysts claim that if PS2 manages to tap into its already well-established user base, of over 8 million units, it is bound to succeed. The main question remains as to the exact nature of the services which will be provided. Whether third parties, game publishers like EA and Activision, will show any interest is also debatable since they stand to make no profit from the current structure of the services. As the service stands it will not be pay-to-play, instead users will pay for the game once and then will be charged connection fees as with any Internet ISP. Sony claim to already have deals in place with various ISP's covering over 11 million users. The network adapter will come with a start-up disk ready to use with most major ISP's.
There are still many questions regarding the exact nature of the services however, not least of which is which games will be ready to use when the service launches in August, 2002. One title which will be available is Sony's own SOCOM a game focusing on Navy SEAL ops. Testing, beginning this month, will also involve games such as Frequency and Twisted Metal Online, these titles however, are not certain to be available at the time the service actually launches. Confused? You should be.
Sony are confident that they will have at least 12 titles at launch and hint that they will announce the games during the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in May.
Sony, much like Microsoft, also have plans of global domination. Their strategy focuses on introducing phase one of their online services, online gaming, in August of 2002
and a move to phase two services after 2003. Phase two services will include audio and video streaming (using a hard-drive) and various other e-distribution systems.
Sony is the first to announce a comprehensive online services plan. Microsoft's XBox, which carries a built-in Ethernet port, is also expected to launch online services sometime in 2002.
The only major "player" in the console market with no immediate online plans is Nintendo, who have kept quite about any networking plans for their GameCube console.