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Massively multiplayer games such as the latest EverQuest expanasion pack, and the eagerly anticipated PlanetSide and Star Wars Galaxies, will benefit from increased global support, according to announcements last week from publisher Sony Online Entertainment.

Currently, Sony's monthly subscription games require a credit card from an American issuer, ruling out many potential players in Japan and other Asian countries, as well as those who can't get a card because they are too young or have a poor credit rating.

To help those unfortunate billions, from later this year Sony will accept payment using cards from the Japanese Credit Bureau, and will also introduce ninety day pre-payment "Game Cards", which will be sold in software stores and can be bought with cash.

"There has been a universal increase in demand for access to our best-selling game, and now we have found a way to reach this broader market by changing our billing methodology," was the explanation from SOE marketing vice president Scott McDaniel.

To further facilitate plans for a "global gaming community", as SOE president Kelly Flock puts it, the company will also introduce on-the-fly translation.
Beginning with The Shadows of Luclin, the third EverQuest expansion pack, player dialogue can be translated between French, German, Japanese, Korean, and presumably English.

According to Sony, EverQuest has more than 385,000 active subscribers, making it the most successful online role-playing game. It has become known as "EverCrack", due to the highly addictive nature of its virtual fantasy world.

The game is so addictive that unofficial support groups have been set up to help people kick the habit, and to offer advice for people whose friends or family members are unable, or unwilling to walk away from their virtual, ten bucks per month existence.

With the introduction of Sony's pre-payment cards, which for the first time will allow under-18s to play EverQuest without parental permission, it surely won't be long before the mainstream press is regaling us with tales of teenage EverCrack zombies and neglected school work.

Two of Sony's forthcoming massively multiplayer titles, Star Wars Galaxies and the first-person shooter PlanetSide, look set to rewrite the rules of online action games, which are traditionally small-scale affairs played on free, unsupported servers. ®

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