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PlayStation Network: ready for launch? [update 2]

Vladimir Cole

Eurogamer's Rob Fahey provides a couple new details on some of the online features of the PlayStation 3.

Fahey asks a key question, but unfortunately never gets around to answering it: "Can a company whose online strategy in the last generation was so patchy, and their actual service so weak, really turn things around on the online front in time for the PS3's launch?"

Here's a summary of the write-up, lorry-loads of fluff removed:

  • The core OS of the system can be updated by Sony online [we knew this; it's expected in any online system]
  • Both PS3 SKUs include a hard drive, critical for downloading content [we also knew this, but it's worth repeating as an advantage of the lower-priced PS3 bundle versus the Xbox 360's lowest-priced system]
  • The system stores the profiles of different users within the household. Select a profile and the system logs that profile in, setting system configuration details according to the data stored with that profile. [We knew this.]
  • Settings are managed via an interface that looks like the PSP's settings interface. Configure network settings, passwords, and so on. [We knew this.]
  • "Fully-functional" web browser that will allow users to access "any site" on the internet. [We knew this.]
  • The system tracks the online status of the people on your friends list. Users can send friends text messages (via a PSP-style text messaging system or via USB keyboard), engage in voice and video chat [no voice mail?], and view pop-up notices as friend status changes. The system doesn't allow one to respond to these in-game status pop-ups, so you'll have to exit your game if you want to read the message you just received. [New detail?]
  • Account management: there are two types of PlayStation Network account: master accounts are like administrator accounts, while "associated accounts" can be restricted in some unspecified way. [New detail?]
  • Global sign-in IDs: like Xbox Live, global IDs make the process of finding and adding friends to your friends list an easier task than, say, punching in an obfuscated alpha-numeric code. [We knew this.]
  • PlayStation Store: obtain demos, purchase downloadable PSone and PS2 games, purchase downloadable extras (horse armor FTW), and pay for subscriptions to certain (premium) online games in local currency. Sony avoids getting eaten alive by transaction fees by requiring deposits of cash into a virtual wallet. Once cash is deposited to the wallet, it's spent the same way MS Points are spent. [Does this mean that credit cards are required for online purchases?] Game-specific mini marts will show premium content for a specific game only. [We knew this.]

Overall, the piece gives very few genuinely new details and raises more questions than it answers. Even the information that the service appears to be running in a controlled fashion inside the Sony fortress isn't new. Journos got the same demo weeks ago at the Tokyo Game Show.

Still, Fahey implies that what he saw wasn't finished, writing, "We're not going to talk in much depth about PlayStation Store, because what we saw was still undoubtedly being worked on frantically to prepare for the November launch."

No word either on how this whole friends system will interface with Xfire.

It's not clear whether this limited demo buttresses or undermines Sony's claim that the PlayStation Network will be ready for the North American launch of the console on November 17th. Regardless, we're looking forward to testing it.

[Post image shows the PlayStation 2 network adapter. No clunky adapter needed for the PS3, as it's all built right in.]

[Update 1: The correct launch date of the PS3 is November 17th. The post has been corrected.]

[Update 2: Split the post and clarified the information on demo downloads.]

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