For clarity purposes, the final paragraph of this post has been modified to specify that users of Microsoft’s Xbox Live online service must pay the up-front subscription fee to access any competitive multiplayer games.
Sony, the Japanese electronics giant, on Thursday announced a number of new details regarding its much-anticipated PlayStation 3 gaming console, including the news that 21 games will be available on its launch date of Nov. 17 and that its online gaming network will offer free multiplayer options, The New York Times reports.
The news was announced at a media and analyst event in San Francisco, Calif., according to the Times.
Sony PlayStation 3
Sony, Microsoft—with its Xbox 360 console, launched last year—and Nintendo are all preparing to go head to head in the next-generation console war, which will start in late November when PlayStation 3 is released. Nintendo plans to release its Wii system on Nov. 19 with a $250 price tag. The base Xbox 360 console sells for $299.
In addition to the 21 games to be released and the offer of free online gaming, Sony said the first half-million North American gamers who purchase the $499, low-end version of PlayStation 3 will also take home a complimentary copy of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, featuring Will Ferrell, according to the Times. The film promotion is an attempt on the part of Sony to draw attention to the next-generation Blu-ray DVD format, which it backs. The upcoming PlayStation 3 consoles—both the $499 and $599 versions—will be able to play Blu-ray discs—a feature the company says justifies its significantly higher price.
Blu-ray is locked in a battle for supremacy in the next-gen DVD format space with the Toshiba-developed HD-DVD format, and that battle will provide another front for Sony to compete with Microsoft. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant announced in September that it will offer an HD-DVD add-on drive for Xbox 360, and it will be available in November. That drive will retail for about $170.
Kazuo Hirai, Sony Computer Entertainment America chief executive, said at the event, “With the PlayStation 3, we have taken our legacy, we have taken our vision, to build a product really from the ground up that is going to lay the foundation for the next 10 years in digital entertainment,” according to the Times.
Sony plans to ship some 400,000 PlayStation 3 consoles in November to North America, the Times reports—a quantity that will likely sell out rapidly due to strong demand. It has also said in the past it expects to ship 6 million consoles by the start of April 2007, according to the Times.
Sony owned about 60 percent market share in the last generation console space, and both Microsoft and Nintendo took about 20 percent each of that market, the Times reports.
Analysts and pundits have speculated in recent days that Sony would challenge Microsoft in the online gaming realm by offering its Web network for free to PlayStation users, enabling them to participate in multiplayer games and tournaments. The event Thursday confirmed such predictions. Microsoft’s Xbox Live network costs $50 per year, the Times reports, and users must pay the up-front fee to access any games in which they compete with others, though some free content is available.