Sony outlines online plans for PlayStation 3
Video game system, less than a month away from its scheduled launch, will offer free online play.
By Chris Morris, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With the PlayStation 3 launch date less than one month away, Sony is finally answering some of the lingering mysteries about the video game system.

The company on Thursday outlined its online gaming strategy and other launch details at an event in San Francisco.

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Online has become an important battleground for console gaming systems over the past five years - and both Sony (Charts) and Microsoft (Charts) are betting heavily on it becoming even more critical in the future. The two companies have taken a slightly different path in wooing audiences, though.

For the PS3, Sony will continue offering the service for free, as it did with the PlayStation 2.

Microsoft, while offering a basic free service, charges users $50 for a one-year subscription to Xbox Live, which allows players to compete against each other.

Players will be able to download demos, additional content for games and casual games. Sony said downloadable games, made specifically for the PS3, would cost less than $15.

"They're not meant to be 40-50 hour experiences," said Peter Dille, senior vice president of marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment America. "They're more 'jump in and play' titles."

Customers will also be able to download roughly a dozen games from the original PlayStation system at launch, which will be playable on the PSP, Sony's portable game device. Pricing will range from $5 to $10.

After the holidays, the company said it will release emulation software, allowing people to play those downloaded classic titles on the PS3. Older PlayStation 2 games will also be available for purchase online next year.

Beyond its gaming options, the PlayStation Network, as it is called, will also allow PS3 owners to access the Internet, something the Xbox 360 does not currently do.

The PS3, which will hit store shelves Nov. 17, will have 22 games available by Christmas, including Electronic Arts' (Charts) "Madden 2006" and "NBA Live 07" and Activision's (Charts) "Call of Duty 3" and "Tony Hawk's Project 8". The exact number of titles available at launch is still undetermined.

The system will cost $499 (which includes a 20GB hard drive) or $599 (which includes a 60GB hard drive).

On the hardware side, one of the PS3's most notable features is the inclusion of a Blu-Ray disc player. Sony hopes to establish Blu-Ray as the new standard for high definition DVDs, winning market share away from HD-DVD.

To help build excitement, Sony said it will bundle a copy of "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" with the first 500,000 PS3s.

Finding that bundle will probably be hard, though. The company has allocated 400,000 units to North America for the Nov. 17 launch and they're expected to sell out almost instantly.

Analysts expect severe shortages of the system throughout the holiday season.


Game titles give consoles pole position

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.