PlayOnline trials in Japan, but service is threatened
Squaresoft may pay for their promiscuous multiplatform development!
Squaresoft has finally shipped copies of its PlayOnline PlayStation 2 network software to the firm's beta testers according to this report at The GIA. As expected, at least one Japanese beta tester has braved the developer's wrath and posted a few tantalising teaser shots and photographs of the kit he received. In its current form, PlayOnline will be an entirely separate user interface from the PS2, presumably allowing players to dial up the specialist network using the PO disc before swapping in the appropriate game to begin play. The beta kit includes PlayOnline software and Final Fantasy IX's card game Tetra Master, which serves as a proving ground for online play and also features an online ranking mode to track statistics. Players can apparently participate in auctions to buy rare cards, but details of this are sadly few. Players can also download unique wallpapers and download songs for background music. Of course, when PlayOnline makes it out of beta it will presumably facilitate RPGs above more or less everything else, but Square has comfy relationships with companies like Namco and Enix, so we may see some variation there. Ridge Racer could certainly do with some online features. At the moment though, PlayOnline is threatened by Sony's own network services. Regular readers here will be acutely aware of the company's online plans for the UK, which involve trials with Telewest and ntl set-top cable boxes, but in America the service is dead set. SCEA have said that the service will be an 'exclusive' network involving partnerships with AOL, Macromedia and co., and that all content has to be approved by Sony. Cunningly, the company aims to make yet more money from developers by charging them to run their servers. This month's NextGen magazine in the States carries a report on the subject which claims that the service will lock PlayOnline completely out of the picture, and that as such PlayOnline will be restricted to Japan. Which, some have said, is an indication that Sony are reacting harshly to rumours of Square's involvement with Xbox and Game Cube. Related Feature - The Console Wars