One huge advantage that Sony’s PlayStation Network has over the rival Xbox Live service is that it doesn’t charge gamers to play online against each other – but don’t fret, PS3 and PSP owners, because that’s not changing. Probably. Hirai’s statement suggested that the subscription model would run alongside the existing free services.
Microsoft’s Xbox Live is a two-tiered service, with the free Silver edition offering downloads of videos and demos, while the Gold service allows gamers to play online, plus access certain exclusive content (including the Twitter, Last.fm and Facebook apps recently launched) and special offers.
If Sony does keep online play totally free, it’ll be interesting to see what it can offer to keep PlayStation Network users shelling out a subscription over a period of time: could it be a movie service offering a certain number of film downloads per month? Or perhaps exclusive access to prerelease beta versions of games? We’ll have to wait and see.