[Update 1: A Sony Online Entertainment has contacted 1UP and clarified that the Xfire technology was only being evaluated for the PS3 launch title, Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom. "This proposed deal is completely separate and independent from the PlayStation Network Platform, and is something that SOE was examining specifically for Dark Kingdom." It seems we're back to square one. Thanks, Sanchinos. Original post text retained below.]
Sony's answer to Microsoft's online network has, up until now, been a vague structure loosely comprised of PS2 network adaptors, a variety of developer standards, some sticky tape and at least one used copy of Final Fantasy XI. With the arrival of the PS3 and its PlayStation Network Platform, Sony aims to round up all the loose components of online play and rudely shove them beneath something resembling an umbrella. 1UP has the scoop on just how the Japanese giant hopes to accomplish this -- enter Xfire, an established matchmaking and messaging client that Windows PC users are bound to be familiar with. By incorporating a modified version of Xfire into PNP, Sony should be adequately (and one should hope, rapidly) equipped with all the rocks it needs to create a mass avian extinction within the online realm.
Extracted from the transcript of a Viacom earnings conference call, the information creates some expectation as to how exactly Sony's service will function and what adantages it may have over Xbox Live. Firstly, it seems fair to suggest that the PS3's network may interact with the PC in the same way Microsoft's Live Anywhere initiative does. Other features from Xfire should also make the migration to PNP, along with server browsing, friends tracking, voice chatting and matchmaking that inevitably connects you to a person keen on highlight pathetic skills and sexual orientations.
Of course, it's still unclear as to how exactly PNP deals with private servers and those run by developers. Will it be a completely seamless process of joining and creating games, or will the only online unification be in the form of a PS3 menu that lets you search for servers across a myriad of games? More answers and details should be forthcoming soon.
[Note: The above image is a mock-up. It is not a true representation of what PNP will be like. So there.]