Sony reveals all the goods!
Listening to the one hour press teleconference with Chief Operating Officer and President of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, Kaz Hirai, I came away with some incredibly worthy facts that many people have been anxiously waiting to know. Will price drops happen? What about the HDD? Keep on reading bellow for the full details.
1) In the future, when the HDD is released, developers will have the ability to allow owners of their online compatible games to download custom based "mods". Be it for weaponry, stage design, or some extreme feature that alters the image of the game. Mods will be allowed for download and sharing.
2) Initially, not all online games will require the HDD. So the worried who believe you'll need to buy an HDD in order to play the PS2 online, should relax. This was directly confirmed by Kaz Hirai himself. In the future there will be titles that require the HDD, but that isn't for quite some time, so for the most part the HDD is a luxury and not a necessity.
3) When asked about a price cut at E3, Kaz Hirai stated that even in a generally slower time period such as February and March, sell through of the PS2 has been "overwhelming". Sony is fully confident that the PS2 will continue to sell well because of its software, and they currently have no plans to announce a price cut at E3.
4) Sony has not ruled out a bundle of the HDD/Network Adapter packaged with the PS2 sometime in the future. But Kaz Hirai didn't want to limit the consumer to the choice of buying the PS2 with these extra components, and in turn having absolutely no use for them. He doesn't enjoy the thought of leaving a PS2 consumer in the dark, so currently his decision is to keep everything as an "option". You want the PS2 and Network Adapter, but not HDD, so be it.
5) As mentioned previously, the HDD will not be a necessity but a luxury. With that in mind, Kaz assures the listening audience that the HDD will NOT impair the launch of the PS2's online network - a bit later this year.
6) Sony has given 3rd party browser developers all the right to develop their own browser without having to go through any complicated observations by Sony. Sony is allowing them to freely develop the browser software they choose, and they will not interfere -- that is of course unless there is something to interfere over. Here is Kaz Hirai's comment on internet browsing with the PS2. "We are still continuing to work with AOL. Right now the most important thing that we're focusing on is making sure that we get the connectivity to AOL going on the start-up disc. And that has been our primary focus. As far as browsing on the Web is concerned, I think we may have talked about this before. If there is an application that can be published on the PS2 that is a Web browser there's certainly nothing stopping that from being technically feasible. But we don't know if first parties or third parties would view browsing the Internet as an entertainment proposal at this point in time."
7) The Linux bundled HDD will NOT be compatible with standard Playstation 2's. This was not a business decision, but a technological reason.
8) Lastly, the Network Adapter/56k modem will retail for $39.99 and will be released later this August. The Network Adapter acts as a 56k modem and Ethernet adapter, which will allow users to plug in their existing broadband connection (Cable, DSL, T1, etc) into the high-speed Ethernet port. Sony insists that every ISP provider works with the network adapter, no matter the size of its corporation and reach. If you have some unheard of DSL or Cable connection, chances are it will work with the PS2. That's just how much Sony loves you. A manual, an introduction/installation disk, online game demos (presumably quirky puzzle games), and registration and connectivity features/options for America Online, Earthlink, AT&T Worldnet Service, SBC Prodigy, and Sympatico (among possible others) will be included with the network adapter. The network adapter has been slightly remodeled; you no longer must attach it into the HDD, but you still have the option to do so.
"After leading this industry for many years, we know our market and understand our core competencies are consumer-based hardware and in-home entertainment. The world of online gaming and broadband-based network services, as it currently stands, is not a one-stop experience," stated Kaz Hirai, President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. "Any company entering this space needs strong partners in various business areas to succeed. With the help and support of our partners - whether on the content or technology side - we will be able to offer online console gaming through PlayStation 2 that is consumer friendly, and most important, fun."
Kaz Hirai made a certain point clear to the audience, he does not envision the PS2 becoming a mainstream option in accessing the net, a'la Web TV. He states, "we're not interested in becoming an ISP, we're not interested in becoming a closed-gated environment with controlled network guidelines or an online-only platform. And certainly, we're not looking to define the PlayStation 2 brand solely by the online experience."
His online launch plans are quite hopeful. Come August, he states that 12 online compatible PS2 titles will be on the market ready to go. The games of course include SOCOM: Navy Seals, Twisted Metal: Black Online, and possibly an update disk to Frequency (which had its online mode nixed at the last second). An undisclosed version of NFL GameDay is supposedly running internally at Sony, via online as well. When asked by myself for a rough count of all PS2 online related titles in development across all regions, Hirai could not specify just yet. For those who are getting ready to ask me about the release and price of the HDD, I was able to slip that question in as well, and Hirai stated that Sony has no set or estimated release date and price scheduled.
The cost of most of the online titles will be free of charge, with the exception of massively multi-player RPGs such as Final Fantasy XI. Basically, gamers have very few, if any, things to worry and ponder over. Sony seems to have everything under the control. Beta testing is scheduled to begin later this month, says Sony. A lucky 1000 participants will be chosen to experience a new movement in console gaming.
At the Game Developers Conference later this March, two Sony representatives will attend to discuss more specifics. The biggest of all announcements will come at E3. Just you wait and see. This one will be for the ages.
3/7/2002 Arnold Katayev