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Playstation Live Coming After All?
game: Playstation 3
posted by: Aaron Stanton
publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
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date posted: 08:43 AM Fri Feb 3rd, 2006
last revision: 08:43 AM Fri Feb 3rd, 2006

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Click to read.In November of 2005, Playstation Magazine reported that Sony would be using a non-unified online service for the Playstation 3, much like they did with the current PS2.

Many people considered it a poor move on Sony\'s part, since Xbox Live is thought by many to be one of Microsoft\'s most significant contributions to the gaming community. Lack of a unified online service would be considered a disadvantage to the Playstation 3 when it reaches the market.

However, now Playstation Magazine (via Joystiq.com) is reporting that, contradictory to what Sony Computer Entertainment Vice President Phil Harrison told Playstation Magazine in November, Sony has been working on an Xbox Live style service since shortly after they released the PS2 network adapter in 2002.

Playstation Magazine now sights anonymous developers for the new information. These developers say they\'ve been meeting with Sony\'s team to make sure their upcoming titles are compatible with Sony\'s as-of-yet unnamed and unannounced online system.

According to the article, Sony will be aggressively targeting the latest version of the Xbox Live service, looking to meet and exceed what Microsoft\'s online system has to offer.

\"It\'s very real,\" Playstation Magazine quotes one source as saying. \"They [Sony] are very serious about it.\"

So the question is, of course, how do these two stories connect?

What Phil Harrison actually said last November does not absolutely exclude the concept of Sony actively developing some sort of online network. His comments suggested that the PS3\'s online system would be much like the PS2\'s, with each game\'s online ability partially determined by each developer. This suggests a non-unified online system, but does not preclude the possibility of Sony helping developers build an online environment.

Since November, rumors have surfaced indicating that Sony does in fact maintain a team that focuses on helping developers integrate online abilities into their games. It\'s very possible that Sony helps developers by providing human assistance, and they have certainly distributed development tools specifically designed to get their systems online.

However, this is far short of the integrated system used by Microsoft\'s Xbox Live, in which all games communicate through Microsoft\'s system. Users pay a subscription to Microsoft in order to access the network, and Microsoft - not the developers - maintain the servers and technical support that keep the system functioning.

However, it still leaves a pretty substantial gap between what Phil Harrison said, referring to a network that\'s similar to the PS2, and the more recent reports of a system that is capable of, \"...matching Xbox Live feature for feature and then some.\"

Additional comments suggest that the new system will be used by both the PS3 and the PSP.

Sony, of course, refuses to comment on rumors and speculation. Still, assuming that Phil Harrison was not simply misleading the public several months ago, there are some remaining questions about what Sony is planning on doing. They\'re saying they\'re serious about taking the PS3 online, true, but how they actually follow through is yet to be seen.

Many members of the gaming community consider Microsoft\'s development of the Xbox Live network one of the most significant aspects of the Xbox system. Because of the prevalence of Xbox Live, online support has become increasingly common on games released for the Xbox. Microsoft hopes to make their online service an even more integral part of console gaming with the release of the Xbox 360, which offers free access to online voice (and soon video) chat, game-related downloads, demo and trailer downloads, and game-targeted entertainment content (movies, music, etc.).

Nintendo is also moving forward with plans to create a unified online service with the launch of their Wi-Fi Connection. Previously considered the lagging competitor in terms of online support (the GameCube has virtually no online games available for the system), Nintendo has been aggressively promoting their service, recently striking a deal with McDonald\'s to offer free Wi-Fi access to Nintendo DS units.

Sony\'s decision to remain with a non-unified online network seems to be going against the grain of the next-generation consoles, if that is indeed what they are doing.

Whether this will turn out to be a mistake for Sony remains to be seen. Poor promotion was one of the key factors to the lackluster online support for the PS2. Sure, it worked well for a couple games, but overall it was a dud. If Sony puts a decent amount of effort into showing that it wants to be in the online arena, the PS3 could very well be right in the middle of the online mix this next generation. However, seeing that Nintendo has recently opened its eyes to online gaming and is preparing to go head to head with Microsoft\'s already strong online support, one would have to wonder why - until recently - Sony seems relatively uninterested in trying to get its own piece of the pie.

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