Commentary

Bleak Outlook For PS3 Online

As Sony's most faithful console warriors begin to line up at retail outlets across America, the outlook for the Playstation 3 as a platform for reaching people online is pretty gray.

This week, Sony announced that it would offer a unified login ID for all its games, similar to Xbox Live's GamerID, a good first step.

But Sony's big-name exclusive launch title, "Resistance: Fall of Man," while using that login, will incorporate its own buddy list and game matchmaking service--which, according to press reports, the PS3's operating system is as yet unable to support. So, at launch, PS3's contribution to online gaming appears to be the ability to reserve the same nickname across all its titles. That's some weak tea.

Of course, Sony will be building out the unified ID into something more substantive--one would hope. But while PS3's online service plays catch-up, Xbox Live is doing a great job at being all things to all people, offering unified online game matchmaking, a casual games store, and basic social networking functions across all its titles. Meanwhile Nintendo, for its online offering, includes out-of-the-box connectivity to its online matchmaking service, which will be free--one of its competitive advantages over XBox Live.

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As the PS3 launch date approaches, it's becoming more and more clear that Sony has truly dropped the ball on online gaming and community, putting its entry into the console wars in a distant third place. Optimistic PS3 fans hoped that the lack of information about their online platform was just Sony playing its cards close to its chest. But instead, at launch, the Playstation 3 is looking to be an also-ran for online gamers, and any marketer hoping to use games to reach consumers where they play.

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