The European trials of the online gaming service for the PlayStation 2 (PS2) will start at end of March, Sony has announced.
Be a virtual Navy Seal online
Gamers who want to take part in the trials need to have a broadband connection and will have to fill in a questionnaire on the web.
Sony is lagging behind rival Microsoft, who has been testing its European online gaming network for several months now.
Both Sony and Microsoft have already ventured into online gaming in the US, where they have attracted hundreds of thousands of players.
To take part in European trials, people will need to buy a PS2 network adaptor for £39.99 so that they can hook their consoles to a broadband connection.
The consumer trials will help determine the shape and nature of the commercial offering of this service
The starter kit also includes a headset and an online-only version of the game SOCOM: US Navy Seals, which pits a team of soldiers against a group of terrorists.
As an incentive, Sony is offering a free version of the full Seals game to players who sign up for the trials. The title has proved popular in the US, where it has sold more than a million copies.
"Starting with the groundbreaking experience of 16-player SOCOM with voice communication, PlayStation Network gaming will be exciting to play and affordable," said Ray Maguire, Managing Director of Sony Computer Entertainment UK.
"The consumer trials will help determine the shape and nature of the commercial offering of this service."
Sony is not planning to charge a subscription to play online or set up a dedicated gaming network, as Microsoft has done with its Xbox Live service.
Instead it is aiming to make its broadband packs compatible with as many European internet service providers (ISPs) as possible.
So far it has agreed partnerships in the UK with Telewest Broadband, BT Openworld and BT Retail, NTL and Freeserve.
"We believe that working with our partner ISPs, coupled with the simplicity and affordability of our network set-up, will accelerate broadband adoption in the UK and provide a further boost to the exponential growth of the total gaming market," said Mr Maguire.
Sony has not set a date for the official launch of its gaming network in Europe, saying this will partly depend on the results of the trials.
Online gaming on the PS2 has proved a big success in the US and Japan. Sony says it has sold more than 600,000 network adapters since they went on sale last year.
By contrast, Microsoft says it has signed up 350,000 gamers for its Xbox Live service.
It has been running European trials for the last few months and the service is due to be officially launched on 14 March.
The third player in the console marketplace, Nintendo, started selling online gaming adapters for its GameCube in the US in October.
The online arena is shaping up as the next battlefield for the console manufacturers Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
Currently, income from online gaming is minimal. But some analysts predict that revenues could exceed $1bn by 2006.