Sound Off Vol. 4: The Next Generation Online

November 8, 2005

I think it is safe to say that competition in the console world is here to stay. With things really starting to heat up for the next generation between Microsoft and Sony, the mudslinging is only going to get worse and worse. We are now a mere two weeks away from the launch of the Xbox 360. Microsoft has been getting everything ready to relaunch Xbox Live to take advantage of all the new bells and whistles they have been working. It is sure to be quite an improvement.

With the undoubted success of Xbox Live, one has to wonder what Sony’s plans are for the PS3 in terms of online gaming. Actually, we don’t really have to wonder because last week Sony [url=]announced[/url] that they are not implementing a central service for online gaming for the PS3. Say what? What that means for Playstation diehards is that they will face the same challenges for online gaming that they did this time around. There is no doubt that the concept of an open architecture could potentially produce great things, but the fact remains that Live works and is continuing to work.

Things only get stranger when you consider that the Sony execs seem to be confident that the PS3 will be the center of the digital home when it is released. How exactly do they plan to accomplish that with a device that has no central service to connect to? I sincerely hope that they don’t plan on trying to leverage the UMD format on top of pushing Blu-Ray.

Even better is the fact that Nintendo has announced a large-scale WiFi network for online gaming between DS owners. Nintendo is typically very reserved in rolling out technology that may detract from a true gaming experience, and here they are walking right past Sony in the online gaming arena.

Now I realize that an open architecture does work to some extent. For example, [i]Socom[/i] has been hugely successful in the online arena with [i]Socom 3[/i] hitting record numbers of gamers. The problem is those records aren’t even in the same league as the numbers of people playing on Live at any given time. With Live morphing into a central hub of communication, it seems like Sony would rush to create a revenue stream with endless possibilities. They aren’t, however, and nobody seems to understand why.

With the Xbox 360-packed with PC integration and a service backing it as great as Live-coming out an entire year before the PS3, does the PS3 even stand a chance? I hope it does. Competition is good for the consumers, but I have a feeling that Sony is about to get a taste of the medicine they dished out to Nintendo when the Playstation debuted. For now, I guess we will wait and see if Sony follows the path that Microsoft is carving, or if they decide to go their own way and get burned.