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Sony Online 2007 Press Event

Sony Online Entertainment has come a long way since the launch of the original Everquest MMO several years ago as the game developer and publisher has released title for the PC, PS2, PS3 and PSP platforms. On Wednesday night at Sony's corporate headquarters in New York City, the company held a press event where they outlined some of their plans for the future. The press event included the announcement of a number of new projects as well as an overview of the company's six development studios.

Station Launcher

One of the new products shown at the event wasn't a game at all but a new program that all players of Sony Online's PC MMO titles will use. Station Launcher is an upcoming PC client that will consolidate all of the company's PC MMO games into one simple to use product. We got a demo of Station Launcher during the event which has been in the works for the past three years. Basically the program will show what Sony Online MMO games you have installed and subscribed to on your PC along with any expansion packs for those games. If there is an update for the game Station Launcher can sit in the background and download it for you before you decide to launch the game. If there are any paid expansion packs that you want to download the Station Launcher will allow you to pay for those expansions and download them. The user interface is very simple to understand.

Station Launcher isn't just a client device designed for games, however. The program will allow players of Sony Online's MMO titles to keep up with each other with a universal friends list that will span all of Sony Online's titles along with a chat client that will support a number of popular PC chat services (ICQ, AIM, Yahoo, etc). People will be able to keep track of not only what game their friends are playing but also what character they are using as well. While it won't launch when the program is first released, Sony Online has plans to also allow the downloads of music, movies and TV shows. Everquest guild members could download a film and watch it together and even chat with each other about the movie a la Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Station Launcher is scheduled to begin open beta testing this summer and the official launch of the program is scheduled for later this summer.

PS3 Downloadable Games

Sony Online developed the Playstation Network for Sony's Playstation 3 console handling the Playstation Store, user registration and more from Sony Online's San Diego offices. Sony Online has also been the leader in offering downloadable titles for the PS3. As of this writing the company has released six downloadble games for the console, ranging from porting classic Midway games like Gauntlet and the newly released Rampart to original titles like Guns Cash Chaos. Sony Online said they have had about 300,000 downloads of their PS3 games so far and the company has plans to release several more downloadable games for the PS3 in the next several months, including what is sure to be a popular title, High Stakes On The Vegas Strip Poker Edition. This new game, unlike Microsoft's Xbox 360 downloadable poker game, will contain full 3D character avatars and other graphical features that make it stand out.

SOE-San Diego

The presentation then moved onto looking each each of the company's six internal studios. The first was Sony Online's main headquarters in San Diego where Everquest and Everquest II are still expanding after eight years and two 1/2 years respectively. For the original title, the decision has been made to keep expansion packs down to just one per year in order for the game's players to fully explore the new content that will be introduced. This fall, the whopping 14th expansion for the game will be released, which will be titled Secrets of Faydwer and will raise the level cap in the game to 80 along with new zones, creatures and another new content.

For Everquest II, the game's third anniversary in November will be the time for the game's fourth expansion pack to be released, Rise of Kunark. The expansion will include a new playable race, the dragon-like humanoid called the Sarnak. The level cap for players will also be raised to 80 and there will also be a new starting area along with new zones to explore, hundreds of new quests, a bunch of new monsters and a bunch of other content. Everquest II: Rise of Kunark will be released in a new retail package that will include the base game and all of the previous expansion pack (it will also be available as a digital download as well). In other Everquest news, a new print magazine titled Equinox devoted exclusively to Everquest was also announced at the press event. The first issue is due to be released this summer.

We also got an update on Gods and Heroes, the upcoming Greek-Roman mythology themed PC MMO that is being co-published by Sony Online and the game's developer Perpetual Entertainment. We have seen this game in action several times over the past couple of years and on Wednesday night we got a chance to play with a new build of the game. It looks like Gods and Heroes is coming along nicely with its emphasis on its fast paced combat and its control of NPC minions on display as well as its unique (for MMOs anyway) art design of fighting classic mythological figures such as gorgons, medusas, giants and more. We hope to be able to go into more detail on Gods and Heroes as it enters its final development and gets ready for its official launch, which is currently scheduled for late summer 2007.

Mention was also made at the press event of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, the recently launched fantasy MMO from developer Sigil Games, formed by a number of former team members of the original Everquest. The presentation was brief saying only that the team at Sigil was pleased with how players of the game have embraced new features such as the player dipomacy system and that there are plans to expand the game with additional content. There was no mention made of the recent message board post by Sigil co-founder Brad McQuaid on the talks on the future of the game (which might include Sigil being purchased by Sony Online). Sony Online PR officials will not officially comment on the situation at the press event except to say that the talks with Sigil are still ongoing.


Previously known as Worlds Apart, the Denver division was recently bought by Sony Online as a way to expand their business into new areas, specifically in the world of downloadable online trading card games. The company has been running two titles, Pirates Constructable Strategy Game Online (a game that takes hold on the recent pirate trends with both card and 3D battles) and Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga (described as a cross between space strategy games with poker). Just a couple of weeks ago, SOE-Denver launched Stargate Online Trading Card Game, based on the long running Stargate SG-1 TV series. In addition to online trading card battles the game also uses video footage from the TV show itself. During the press event we were told the game will have expansion that will include content from the spin-off series Stargate Atlantis along with the upcoming Stargate direct-to-DVD movies.

SOE-Los Angeles

Another recent purchase by Sony Online, their Los Angeles studio previously had worked for Sony on games for mobile phones along with causal downloadble PC games. Now the development studio's new relationship with Sony Online will allow them to have better contact with game developers as opposed to just licensees. Perhaps the biggest new game coming from the studio is God of War: Betrayal, a 2D mobile phone title that is an all new game based on the hugely popular PS2 action-adventure series. SOE-LA worked closing with Sony Computer Entertainment's Santa Monica studio on the game which actually takes place in between God of War 1 and II (indeed God of War's scriptwriter also wrote the story for the mobile game). We got to see a quick demo of the game in action and it retains the bloody action of the PS2 games along with the button game design to create special action moves. God of War: Betrayal is scheduled to be available for mobile phone characters in June.


The company started up their first overseas internal studio in Taiwan recently to get Sony Online games ported over to the huge Asian market for online titles. One effort from the SOE-Taiwan team has already been released to North American audiences as the company's Asian themed designs for Everquest II was released in the US as an expansion for the game. In addition to bringing Sony Online's titles to the Asian market, the dev studio is also working on original titles and they announced their first project at the press event on Wednesday. It's an online action game based on the international hit Kung Fu Hustle, the humor filled martial arts game from director Stephen Chow. Chow is actually an avid gamer and will be involved in the development of the Kung Fu Hustle game. SOE-Taiwan decided to make the game a 3D side scrolling action title with a cartoony art style as player fight NPCs in story mode and up to eight players in the game's online mode. We got to see a brief gameplay movie from the title and it definately has an old-fashioned game design combined with fast paced combat and wild moves. The game will be free to play for a brief time period every day but additional time can be found via the purchase of virtual items (although the team is not saying much about how that will work at the moment). The game will launch in Asia later this year and the team hinted that the game will also be launched in the US sometime in the future.

SOE-Austin and SOE-Seattle

Unfortunately there was not any info about new projects coming from two of Sony Online's dev studios at the press event on Wednesday night. SOE-Austin is still the home of the long running Star Wars Galaxies MMO title and the game continues to expand in terms of free content. We were told that upcoming updates include Storyteller which will allow Star Wars Galaxies players to create their own in-game quests for the title, along with Beastmaster which will allow players to create their own beasts that they can buy, sell or trade with other players. SOE-Seattle is the home of The Matrix Online (they picked up the game after original developer Monolith departed as developer only a few months after its launch) and the company has expanded on the game since its original launch along with continuing the storyline in the movie based MMO.

The Future

Sony Online Entertainment is clearly expanding its base beyond Everquest and at the press event we were told that even more announcements are in the works. At their annual Everquest FanFaire that's scheduled for August, the company plans to make yet another new announcement and in April 08 the company should finally reveal more info on perhaps their most anticipated game since Everquest II; DC Universe Online, their super hero MMO based on the DC Comics characters and universe that will have art direction by legendary comic book artist Jim Lee. Stay tuned as we will be covering a number of Sony Online's upcoming games in more detail in the coming months.

OGDC: Sony Details PlayStation Network Expansion Plans

During a panel discussion on the topic of new opportunities in console technology at the Online Game Developers Conference in Seattle, SCEA's director of third-party developer relations took the opportunity to explain to an audience of developers as well as detail the PlayStation Network with many fresh specifics.

So what is the PlayStation Network? asked Sony's Michael Shorrock. He proceeded to state that it was a loyalty catalyst for PlayStation platforms.' It's designed to be a profitable eco-system for both developers and publishers. And it's a marketing platform for games and content.

What Shorrock hopes the Network enables is creativity in development, and flexibility in business models for both the development community, and the publishers. He then showed a slide outlining Sony's Wheel of Services.'

You're probably most familiar with the PlayStation Store, and what we can do with online games, he told the audience. But this, he said of the graph, is our entire scope of services that we'll be developing and releasing in the coming months ahead.

There are six key components. Shorrock began with Services/VOD' which delivers full-length movies, television programs, or music direct to users. Obviously we want to take huge advantage of our member's capabilities, and of the storage capacity.

PlayStation Store' is where Sony has its commerce for downloading digital content. Home' which was announced at GDC in April, is the 3D avatar based world which will facilitate communication amongst consumers. Online Games' adds the human element to traditional gameplay.

In-game/Network Advertising' is part of our core group of services, and we'll be announcing more about it shortly, Shorrock said. We're working on this. Wireless' deals with the wireless capabilities of the platform, which will allow gaming via PSP and mobile devices, keeping users connected at all times.

We're exceedingly excited about Home, Shorrock stated. It's a 3D realization of the PlayStation Network on the SP3. That's what really sets this apart from the other products that are on the market: the ability to customize your avatar, walk around, communicate with people is - we believe - a very compelling and we're excited to offer it in the marketplace. He revealed that Home could also be launched from within PS3 games themselves.

Shorrock also sees the ability to have user-created content, which appeals to Sony's consumers. It's what they've asked for, and it's what they want. Shorrock went on to say that he didn't think there is much of difference between core gamers and casual gamers. What the platform needs, he believes, is simply a wide variety of games from a wide variety of publishers.

Shorrock noted that Sony is looking for lots of content, particularly when it shows the power of the PS3, in other words, high-definition games, use of the Sixaxis controller, as well as new IPs. I'm happy to announce that we're open for business, here with the development teams and the publisher community, Shorrock told the audience of online developers. It's free for consumers, he said, and it's a place for developers to self-publish and explore a variety of business models.

It's a business environment to foster activity and flexibility, Shorrock said. He referred to set areas of Home as pavilions' that might be set apart for a myriad of reasons. It's an open system, so publishers may have, [for example,] an Activision pavilion. They may have a variety of games in there...

The moderator inquired if pavilions must be purchased or leased by publishers. What we're creating is a very flexible model for developers and publishers, Shorrock responded. We're open to proposals, how you might like to proceed. Some publishers, he said, might want their pavilions to be free. Some people might want to charge. Our business model is flexible enough to allow for either way.

Developers can create any sort of pavilion they wish. Shorrock used the example of a casino, with mini-games, admitting he didn't know how developers would choose to monetize it. But building outposts in Home will also lead to new gameplay, he believes. That's the innovation that we'd like to see, and it's going to come from the creativity of the developers in this room. I can't predict where it's going to go.
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