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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2006, 12:16 GMT
Sony gears up PS3 online network
Sony's PlayStation 3
The new machine will be available in November
Sony has outlined plans for its new online gaming service for its forthcoming PlayStation 3 (PS3).

The service will allow users to download games and other content direct to the console's hard drive.

When it is launched in November, the online offering will seek to rival Microsoft's Xbox Live network.

The details were revealed at the Games Developers Conference in San Jose, US, which brings together game developers, academics and business executives.

The service was announced by Phil Harrison, president of worldwide studios for Sony Computer Entertainment at the event.

Known as the PlayStation Network Platform, it will allow gamers the opportunity to purchase entire games, doing away with the need for games discs and retailers.

Xbox downloads

The basic service will be free and will also allow users to chat and send e-mails. Sony is expected to charge for premium offerings, much like Microsoft charges a monthly subscription for some Xbox Live services.

Unlike previous online services for PlayStation, Sony will develop and run the network in-house. Games developers will then offer their content over the network.

Online distribution is seen as a necessity for any next generation console.

On Tuesday, Microsoft said that downloads for its Xbox 360 console, which went on sale late last year, had already sped past the 10 million mark.

More than 85% of Xbox 360 consoles that are connected to the net have downloaded games, trailers and videos from the subscription service, said the software giant.

Sony will be hoping for a similar success. However the electronics giant was recently forced to postpone the launch of its latest machine.

Technical hitches with the console's Blu-ray disc drive meant it will not ship worldwide until late November.

When it finally enters the market place the PS3 will be one of three new gaming consoles that promises cutting edge processing and graphical power. The Xbox 360 is already available and Nintendo's Revolution is due later this year.

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