PS2 Online to Hit Europe

PS2 Online to Hit Europe

Online gaming will go live in the UK next spring, with the rest of Europe following soon after. Provided users have a broadband enabled phone line, all they will need to access the service (other than the console itself) is a Broadband Gaming Pack. This will cost UKP 44.99 and will include the PlayStation 2 Ethernet Adaptor - which is compatible with cable or ADSL connections and plugs into the expansion bay at the back of PS2 - an (as yet unconfirmed) game and a start-up disc that also contains playable demos of forthcoming titles.

One of the crucial aspects of SCEE's online plan as announced today, is that it will be an entirely open network. This essentially means there will be no single company controlling access to the network - instead, publishers will be able to provide gaming content in the way they want and consumers will be able to choose the Internet service provider (ISP) which best suits their needs.

The other key attraction of networked console gaming is that it's intended as a simple, plug-and-play experience. Speaking about what we can expect, SCEE President, Chris Deering, commented: It will be simple to set up, exciting to play and affordable. Our philosophy is to have a very diverse and inclusive platform that will enable content companies, games publishers and ISP portals to provide consumers with the broadest selection of new online experiences and entertainment from a variety of sources.

SCEE has also confirmed the first batch of online enhanced first-party games, which is as follows:

Hardware: Online Arena
Destruction Derby Online
Twisted Metal Online
Frequency 2
My Street
ATV Offroad
This Is Football 2004
World Rally Championship Online

Meanwhile, Sony Online Entertainment is working on a PS2 version of Everquest, the almost absurdly popular massively mulitplayer RPG. Sony also announced plans to take almost every one of its important franchises, online.

Online gaming is already a reality in Japan and America, with over 100,000 users registered on the Japanese network. On the other side of the pond, US owners have been playing online since 27 August, with Madden NFL 2003 and SOCOM: US Navy SEALs regularly attracting hundreds of thousands of players.
Indeed, online gaming is widely regarded as the killer app in terms of encouraging the uptake of broadband technology. David Reeves, EVP of Marketing and Sales at SCEE had this to say: I have no doubt that the line-up of innovative network enhanced PlayStation games from Sony Computer Entertainment studios and from our publishing partners, when coupled with the simplicity and affordability of our network gaming pack, will accelerate broadband adoption in Europe and provide a catalyst for rapid expansion of the total gaming market.

With market research firm Screen Digest forecasts indicating that online gaming revenues will surpass USD 1 billion world-wide by 2006, it is important for all the major players to present comprehensive and competent online strategies. Sony and Microsoft have already done so, with XBox Live heading for the U.K. and eventually Europe in March. Nintendo however, have been slow off the mark and have only just announced their U.S. online plans.