Sony Computer Entertainment of America announced last month that by August it would start selling a PS2 network adapter with an Ethernet port for broadband Internet connections and a modem for dial-up access. Sony executives said there was widespread support among game developers who are planning to add online components to their PS2 game, but it offered no specifics.
Sony is racing against Microsoft, which has said it would launch an online service for its Xbox game machine in late summer or early fall. Microsoft is expected to provide specifics for the online service at the E3 trade show next month.
In Tuesday’s announcement, Sony Online Entertainment, a division of the media and electronics conglomerate, said it would release “EverQuest Online Adventure,” based on the series of PC online games, for the PS2 next spring. The game will consist of packaged software and a subscription-based online service.
“EverQuest” is one of the biggest financial success stories in the nascent world of online gaming, with more than 400,000 subscribers paying subscription fees–$12.95 a month as of April 25–for access to the huge virtual world the game occurs in.
Analysts said the announcement helps Sony build credibility for its effort to push the PS2 online, but they questioned whether the “EverQuest” style of gaming will work on a console. For starters, much “EverQuest” activity centers on online chat, something that won’t be possible on the PS2 without an add-on keyboard or voice capability.
The current “EverQuest” “is really a PC-centric experience where you’re typing a lot of stuff,” said IDC analyst Schelley Olhava. “They’re going to have to find a way to translate that to the console.”
Scott McDaniel, vice president of marketing for Sony Online, said the new version of “EverQuest” will be a fresh design most effective for console play. Chat components will be offered through a variety of peripherals, plus preset menus of common phrases.
“It’s going to work in a similar manner (to the PC game,) but its very much a streamlined interface and to a degree streamlined game play,” he said. “We’re making sure it’s very easy to get into it and start doing things quickly.”
Gartner analyst P.J. McNealey agreed that Sony Online faces challenges in leveraging “EverQuest”‘s popularity on the PC. “There is some overlap between PC gamers and console gamers, but its not a one-to-one mix,” he said.
But in the short term, the prospect of the game will help build interest in online gaming for the PS2, McNealey said. “This helps Sony’s marketing for the online adapter for the rest of the year,” he said. “They can always hold up this title and say, ‘Look what’s coming.'”