Sony is keen to grow its user base of 200,000 Japanese online gamers, and has unveiled a brace of new initiatives to encourage more sign-ups. "We want to focus more on the online gaming business," a spokesman said. "The online game market in Japan is still small and we want to expand it." Indeed, by comparison the market for online console games in the US and potentially even Europe is now much larger than it is in Sony's homeland.
Starting in May, Japanese PS2 owners will be able to buy a PS2 online adapter at a number of retail chains. Sony is reportedly concerned that rival Xbox Live starter kits are available there already and that this could undermine its efforts - at the moment, PS2 online gamers have to buy or rent a broadband adapter and hard disk from ISPs.
Bloomberg reports that the adapter alone will retail for 3,980 yen (€33), while the Nihon Keizai newspaper reports an 18,000 yen (€140) price tag for the adapter/HDD bundle, although sources were not cited.
Around the same time, Sony also plans to start offering anime and music via its online service, something we've been expecting ever since the platform holder signed deals with the likes of Real Media.
And in an incentive to encourage more online game development, Sony will waive a development fee equivalent to 15 per cent of unit sales for anybody making an online game. A wise choice, as currently Final Fantasy XI is the only full-scale game available for PS2 online, and that was released in May last year.