Sony 's game-making unit and AOL Time Warner unveiled an alliance on Tuesday that will let users of its PlayStation 2 game console access the Web, chat and e-mail using the AOL service, executives told Reuters.
PlayStation 2, launched last March, has shipped more than 10 million machines as of last month. In April, Sony said it would begin selling an upgraded version of the game console that will let users plug in a broadband-ready hard disk drive unit, letting the console link to the Web at several times the speed of current connections and allow richer game content.
Microsoft's Xbox is expected to have a built-in 8-gigabyte hard drive and a high-speed Internet jack.
While online gaming is still in its infancy, most industry players see it as a lucrative way to make money in the future as gamers pay fees to join vast multiplayer adventures or virtual sports events over high-speed Internet connections.
As part of the pact, AOL features, such as real-time chat and e-mail, will be incorporated into the PlayStation 2 software development kits that content developers use to create new games. Sony aims to offer content providers the ability to incorporate AOL features into their new games by the winter of this year, with new games incorporating the features appearing in the second-half to late 2002.
AOL was just beginning talks with developers on how the games would brand the features within the games.
Under the pact, which initially covers North America, Sony and AOL will also explore interactive entertainment opportunities, including high-speed, or broadband, technologies and the development of a Netscape browser on PlayStation 2 for Web surfing through the game console.
The AOL experience on the game console and Netscape browser capability is targeted to be available this winter.
To use the more advanced interactive features, PlayStation 2 users will have to buy additional hardware including a hard disk drive, a keyboard and mouse and an LCD display with higher resolution than a television.
Pricing for the peripheral devices have not yet been determined by Sony.