More PS3 details emerge

Free multi-player gaming on the cards

Games Digest Sony Computer Entertainment's president, Ken Kutaragi, announced a raft of new details about the PS3, PSP and PNP at a press conference in Tokyo last week. The big announcement, that the PS3 will launch in mid-November in Japan, the US and Europe simultaneously, has already been covered by Reg Hardware. But more interesting is the emerging picture of how Sony sees the PS3 squaring up against the Xbox 360, Nintendo's Revolution and the home PC in the living room.

The devil is in the detail. Sony's announcement of a "PlayStation Network Platform" was no surprise. What has been a surprise has been how much Sony has clearly been learning off its competitors. From Microsoft they've taken the concept of a centralised service and micro-payment downloads of add-on content. But Sony's service is apparently set to be free, even for multi-player online gaming, unlike Microsoft's. And with a 60GB hard drive built into the PS3, Sony will be able to offer full game and movie downloads to consumers without worrying so much about where that consumer will store them.

From Nintendo, Sony has taken a respect for the back catalogue. Sony is already planning a download emulator service for the PSP. So you'll be able to download to Memory Stick and then play PSOne games on your PSP handheld. But according to several sites, most notably GamesIndustry.biz, the PlayStation Network Platform will take things further. Behind closed doors, Sony is apparently urging publishers to make PSOne and PS2 games available for download via the Network to the PS3. As well as PSOne games, the PSP is also set to get a price cut (probably to around £140), an EyeToy-style camera module for games and video-and-voice-over-IP chat and a GPS module for in-car navigation and game functionality. Sony has centre stage again.

The question now is will the fact that its entering the next generation last dent it? Or, on the handheld console side, can it use these new functions to play Nintendo's DS at its own game – using unique functionality to make games to sell systems? Roll on November when we find out.

Games now as important as film and TV, according to BAFTA.

The venerable organisation has announced a revitalised set of games awards and plans alongside various London bodies to make the start of October "London Games Week" with a series of consumer and industry events finishing with the BAFTA Games Awards. With games' newly-elevated state in mind, it's a shame that 90 per cent of games journalism is such risible fluff then. This week, US blogger and journalist James Wagner Au took games journalists to task. Bad enough the constant haggling and jostling that arguably exchange review scores for access and exclusives, but look at games previews.

Pre-release coverage of games appears increasingly only designed to keep advertisers happy and leave journalists looking like poorly-paid PR people. Wagner Au summarises thus: "Publisher makes mediocre game; press previews depict mediocre game as being good or at least worth a look; excited gamers read previews, foolishly believe them, start making pre-sale orders of mediocre game; driven by preview press and pre-sale numbers based on that press, retailers stock up on mediocre game; publisher makes money from mediocre game, keeps making more games like it." On second thought, perhaps we are no different from TV and film journalists already. Replace "preview" with "celebrity interview" and you've got every film and TV article recently published.

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