Sony has press released the news that PS2 online trials commence on March 31st. Those of you hoping to get onto the trial will need to own a PS2 (obviously) and have a broadband connection. As announced recently, sign-ups for PS2 online will be fielded by regional websites - in the case of UK gamers, UK.PlayStation.com (click Register).
To get onto the test phase, you will be asked to fill out a Sony-sponsored questionnaire, after which you are registered and committed to spending £39.99 (plus £5 P&P) on a PS2 online starter kit if you are selected for the trial. Those selected will be able to purchase the kit by credit card online. The starter kit (sounds familiar) will comprise a network adapter, a SOCOM headset and a special, online-only version of SOCOM.
It's worth noting that Sony is not announcing that SOCOM will be online-only in Europe, merely that trial users will be furnished with such a version. The broadband-only stipulation is also likely just a trial condition. As we all know, PS2 online in the US supports modem connections - where 175,000 people reportedly still play SOCOM. So allay those fears of online-only, broadband-only SOCOM - and relax! It isn't all that fabulous anyway!
As an added incentive for flaky PS2 owners, gamers on the trial will almost certainly be targeted by third parties, including other game publishers, to trial more PS2 online games during the test period. Sony hasn't said how long it will be before PS2 online is "launched" in the way that Nintendo has launched Cube's online services this morning and Microsoft will next week - at retail - but it does have Telewest, NTL, BTopenworld, BT Retail and Freeserve onboard to offer PS2 online packs when the service does launch.
Update - Why did we give Sony the benefit of the doubt? Good question. PS2 online broadband-only in Europe...