You want know a secret about the gaming industry? The console war is over… at least for now. Sony proved this during their Gamers’ Day Press Conference. While most critics were quick to point out that the PlayStation 2 lineup at E3 was weak compared to the lineups of Microsoft and Nintendo, Sony had a few cards to play during Gamers’ Day. Before I discuss the games that are going to redefine the PS2 experience (we will talk about the games in Part Four of our Diary), let me share some sales figures with you. The gaming industry has grown to 9.4 billion dollars in 2001. This makes gaming a larger industry than the Box office (8.4 billion) and slightly behind the Music Industry (13.7 billion) and Home Video (20.8 billion). In the US, over 40% of all households have at least one videogame console and over 100 million people play video or computer games.

So why did I go to the trouble of sharing this with you? Besides that fact that Sony had a “fancyâ€? print-out of these facts, I wanted to make sure you were aware of just how large the gaming industry has become. And in this large market, Sony is totally dominating with 1.77 million PlayStation 2 consoles sold from May 13 through August 5. This is a 239 percent increase in sales since the PS2 price drop on May 13. Sony’s first party titles are also up 46 percent since the drop–selling 1.71 million units in that same time frame. Currently the PS2 has 33.27 million units sold worldwide as of June 30, 2002. They have also sold 187 million copies of games since 6/30/02. How does this compare to the Xbox and GameCube? Nintendo has sold nearly 6 million Cubes worldwide–since its release. The Xbox is sitting at 3.9 million consoles sold since its release. As you can see by these figures, Nintendo and Microsoft have a better chance watching hell freeze over than catching up to Sony’s sales figures.

We could talk numbers all day. However, the games are looking great on the PS2 and their online strategies just might prove to be better than Microsoft’s plans. How is this possible? For starters, Sony is not charging for their online service like Microsoft is. While you will have to spend $39.99 initially for the PS2 Network Adapter, you will not have to pay a yearly fee to Microsoft to play on the Sony network. Also, to encourage third parties to develop online titles, Sony will ask for no royalties or extra licensing fees from publishers until online gaming has shown to make a significant profit. Sony also will not interfere with a third party marketing their online properties on Sony’s online network… in fact, this is encouraged.

At the August 27 launch of the PlayStation 2 Network Adapter, five online titles will be available. By the end of 2002, 13 titles will be available for use online. These include the PC hit Tribes and auto modellista. Players eager to get their hands on Final Fantasy XI will have to wait a little bit longer. The game is set for release some time in 2003. My guess is that this will be the big game in Square’s booth at E3 and they will release it next November. However, this has not been confirmed by either Sony or Square. This game, and many others, will require the use of the PS2 Hard Drive. Sony announced that the release of this add-on is “on the horizonâ€? but did not provide any more details or pricing information.

Sony is expecting to sell 250,000 PS2 Network Adapters at launch. Priced at $39.99, the set includes the 10/100 T Ethernet/V. 90 Modem, a startup disk, and a mail in coupon to receive a free copy of Twisted Metal: Black Online. Sony supports an “open ISPâ€? model. So no matter what ISP you use, whether it is broadband, dial up, or ISDN, you can play online games. The PlayStation 2 Network Adapter will even support AOL. Also, even those of you who have MSN can join in on the action. Sony knows that you Microsoft Network users won’t want to touch Xbox Live after getting a taste of their “freeâ€? online gaming.

Sony is planning to sell 400,000 Network Adapter units by December, 31. And by the end of Sony’s fiscal year, March 31, 2003, Sony expects to have sold 500,000 Network Adapters. While these figures could be quite a bit higher, Sony should have no problems reaching these figures.

While Sony is throwing a ton of money into marketing their products in the latter half of 2002, they will not directly promote the Network Adapter except in a very short run print ad. Sony plans on showcasing their games and mention that it is online compatible. This should prove to be an excellent strategy in getting players to get hooked on the newest titles and want to play them all online.

I have to admit that I was extremely skeptical about the online plans for the PlayStation 2 at E3. However, now that I have had a chance to see the progress Sony has made in the past three months, played the games, and seen the list of companies supporting the PS2 Network Adapter, Sony is poised to take the lead in the next frontier of gaming–the Internet.

By Kaleb Rutherford – 08/16/02

Screenshots for SCEA Gamers’ Day 2002 Diary: Part 3