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Sony announces network gaming plans

PlayStation 2 to go online in the UK, then Germany, France, Spain, Australia and other SCEE territories in 2003

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Our sources at Sony originally told us that the platform holder's long-awaited European Broadband network gaming announcement would appear during October, and as it turns out, 12 hours short of deadline, they were right.

Sony has announced that PlayStation 2 broadband network gaming will launch in the spring of 2003, beginning with the UK. This will be followed by a phased rollout into Germany, France, Spain, Australia and other SCEE territories during 2003.

The official launch will be preceded by a public testing period. The regional websites will act as the focal point for recruiting gamers for the initial trials in each country.

The service will be launched by a Broadband Gaming Pack, which includes a PlayStation 2 Ethernet Network Adaptor, an online game and a start-up disc featuring demos of upcoming games, rather like the one SCEA released in the US. Given a participating broadband network (of which there are many, including ADSL and cable companies), you will be able to get online for a one-off £44.99 fee in the UK (roughly €70), which pays for the cost of the Broadband Gaming Pack. Major retailers are expected to stock the pack as they would any other PS2 title.

Kicking off in the spring, a range of networked games will launch in Europe, including SOCOM: US Navy Seals, Hardware: Online Arena, Destruction Derby Online, Twisted Metal Online, Frequency 2, My Street, ATV Offroad, This Is Football 2004, World Rally Championship Online and of course a new PS2 version of Everquest. More are promised from partner publishers including Capcom, EA, Activision, Take-Two and Eidos.

Sony's plan for online gaming is noticeably similar to Microsoft's effort. Xbox Live launches on March 14th next year, the first anniversary of the console's launch, with a Test Drive period of public testing starting November 30th.

"PlayStation 2 owners with broadband internet access will be able to purchase a Broadband Gaming Pack and immediately start playing a great selection of multiplayer games online," says Chris Deering, president of SCEE. "It will be simple to set up, exciting to play and affordable. Our philosophy is to have a very diverse and inclusive platform that will enable content companies, games publishers and ISP portals to provide consumers with the broadest selection of new online experiences and entertainment from a variety of sources."

The absence of subscription costs is a nice boon for PS2 owners of course, but the real question on our lips is, just where the hell is Final Fantasy XI on that list, Sony?

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