The Official Playstation Magazine reported that Sony has elected not to use a central online gaming service for its upcoming PS3 console. Instead of using a unified system like Microsoft's Xbox Live or Nintendo's soon-to-be-launched Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, Sony is taking the same path as it did with the PS2. This means that it will be up to publishers themselves to provide players with online features and, likewise, for the players to have a separate account for each publisher in order to play online.
While this means that Sony's publishers will have more freedom to do what they want in terms of their online content, it also means Sony will have a more difficult time controlling the quality of the online experience.
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 includes support for a free version of the online service.
Nintendo is also moving forward with plans to create a unified online service with the launch of their Wi-Fi Connection come Christmas. 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.
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 Sony is relatively uninterested in trying to get its own piece of the pie.