Whatever happened to my PS2 online world?

Outside of sports titles, is there any improvement on the near horizen for those of us who have the network adaptor for our Playstation 2s?

As someone who is pretty much an industry outsider, I’m not completely up to date on all the latest developments in the console world, but reading through magazine and website reviews of upcoming PS2 games I keep running across notes about how an upcoming game being looked at has no online support.

As someone who doesn’t have a good number of console gaming friends locally to come over to the house and play against, the promise of being able to play games online against others is something that holds a place of importance.

Seeing the large number of articles about games like Return to Castle Wolfenstein having no online support, or the next Armored Core containing i.link support only, is somewhat depressing, especially when even PSM has taken to rubbing salt in our wounds by noting that the XBox will have such support for RtCW.

The worst thing is that the network hardware has been out for a relatively long time already, and Sony provided the details to game companies long before that.

So, in your opinion, will we ever start seeing a change to online support for multiplayer games becoming anything more than a rare abberation in PS2 games? Will the inclusion of network support in the revamped PS2s help, or will they just be ignored for games that aren’t sports titles?

Since the Network adapter is an add-on piece of hardware, the penetration into homes will be far less than every PS2 owner. Therefore, you’ll only see a few companies willing to support the hardware with games. Why support something only maybe 1 million of your potential 50 million customers might use?

With the release of the new unit that has the broadband adapter built in, you may see an uptick in online ready PS2 titles but it’s doubtful. Even on Xbox, the promise of Live has not translated into mammoth numbers of subscribers and all the Xbox games being Live ready out of the box. As I said long before this generation really got rolling, online gaming is not ready for the masses now and probably won’t be for quite some time. There’s not much you can do about it outside of just sending e-mail or snail mail to your favorite game publishers asking for more online games.

–Dave

You are correct that hardware penetration into homes is a factor, however I do have to wonder how this is different from the situation with the XBox.

While every XBox includes the ethernet adaptor, obiously not every XBox owner has a broadband connection to make use of it, and a slightly smaller number of those that do have the connection have purchased XBox Live. And yet online features are far more common in most current new releases or upcoming titles.

It’s times like this I had access to actual numbers to understand fully what’s going on, but from what I’ve heard, aftermarket PS2 NIC’s sold 700k units in the US and 200k units in Japan by 5/15, and were selling at a pace of 15k units/week in the US pre-E3.

Honestly, I believe that it’s the software that will push hardware sales, and not the other way around, similar to what we’ve seen on the PC side with games pushing both video cards and broadband adoption. And right now, the PS2 really does not have all that much in terms of current or future games to really push for owners to purchase a network unit.

The XBox, on the other hand, despite having far fewer XBoxes out there than PS2s, has a much higher adoption rate of Live amongst its users, and personally I feel this is due to the larger support such users receive. Not just in features, but in the sheer number of games that currently support it.

So if XBox developers feel that the time spent on multiplayer additions to their games is worthwile, why not PS2 developers, especially those who are developing titles that are being ported to both systems?

Part of it is that it’s easier to develop online titles for the Xbox than it is for the PS2. A lot of very nice features can be put in easily (or are “free” essentially) on the Xbox, like the voice stuff, scoreboards, player matching, downloads, connection security, etc. Developers appreciate things like that – anything that makes it easier to put in cool stuff into a game is great. Plus the fact that the connection is guaranteed to be broadband is nice, too.

Sony is definitely playing catch-up with Microsoft in this area. It’s funny, because Sony is slowly but surely trying to transform the PS2 (and certainly its follow-on) into a very Xbox-like machine in terms of features.