Sony demos PlayStation 3 online service

Sony has been demonstrating the online service for its forthcoming PlayStation 3 console, which lets players compete and chat online, as well as download music, movies and game content (such as weapons or maps).

Gamers have long been clamoring for details about the online system for Sony’s long-awaited PS3 console.

Sony’s current PlayStation 2 console was released in the mid-1990s and has roughly 60 percent market share.

Gaming underdog Microsoft, however, has had a breakout hit with its Xbox Live online service, for its the Xbox 360 released last year. This console is the main rival to Sony’s PS3, which is set to debut in North America 17 November, but will appearing on European shores much later, in March 2007.

The PlayStation Network, as the service will be called, uses a navigation system already available on Sony’s hand held game player, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), Sony Computer Entertainment America said on Thursday.

‘This is what a lot of people have been waiting for ages for,’ said John Davison, editorial director for the 1UP Network of video game-focused websites.

Sony said its service will allow PS3 users to compete and chat with other gamers on the network; download game content like weapons or maps; store and view pictures and video; download and listen to music; browse the Web; and shop at the online PlayStation Store.

Online play, chat and other features will be free to users, who will have to pay to download some content.

Sony said downloadable games provided by its units will cost less than $15 at launch.

Both Sony’s PlayStation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox also offered online services. With about 4 million users, however, the Xbox 360 is the first to attract a relatively high percentage of users to its service – roughly 60 percent.

A Sony executive said there were 3 million online service users for the PS2, which has sold more than 106 million units.

Emphasizing the ability of the PS3 to play high-definition videos, Sony also said that the first 500,000 systems shipped in North America will include ‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,’ the Sony Pictures Entertainment comedy starring Will Ferrell.

Some analysts expect movie fans to buy the PS3, priced at $500 and $600, as a machine to play high-definition DVDs in the new Blu-ray format. Blu-Ray competes with the Toshiba-backed HD-DVD in a new standards war for next-generation DVDs.

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