Sony Computer Entertainment America Celebrates One Year of Online Gaming In the Comfort of the Living Room

PlayStation 2 Online Delivers an Entertainment Experience With Mass-Market Appeal


Just one year after Sony Computer Entertainment America led the industry by introducing online gaming in the living room, the company today announced the PlayStation®2 online community is nearing critical mass with more than 780,000 gamers with online connectivity. While the company celebrates the accomplishments achieved over the last year, Sony Computer Entertainment America continues to broaden the potential of the online gaming market by delivering an exciting mass-market entertainment experience that taps into the fundamental need for community through camaraderie and competition.

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Last August, Sony Computer Entertainment America brought online gaming from the back-dens and offices to the living rooms of North America with the launch of the Network Adaptor (Ethernet/modem) (for PlayStation®2), the gateway to the PlayStation 2 online arena. A year later, Sony Computer Entertainment America has established itself as the leader in the online console gaming market, earning this distinction by empowering the largest online gaming community with choice, value, easy access and the best online games available. Earlier this month, Sony Computer Entertainment America announced plans to accelerate further growth of its online community by making it even easier and more enticing for consumers to get online. The company introduced the PlayStation 2 Combo Pack, a special offer that includes the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system, Network Adaptor, and a copy of the online-enabled game, ATV Offroad Fury™ 2, all for $199 suggested retail price. The PlayStation 2 Combo Pack provides consumers with a turnkey solution for online gaming by providing the console, connectivity and content all in one package, just in time for the holidays.

A Solution Fit for the Masses

More than two years ago, Sony Computer Entertainment America led the industry by building key strategies with the potential to create an online gaming community in millions of homes across the nation. The company approached the launch of online gaming with a unique understanding of what attracts the mass-market consumer and how to empower the creative community to deliver an entertainment experience worthy of the living room. Sony Computer Entertainment America focused on creating an open platform for developers and publishers, giving them the flexibility and control needed to create compelling content that would engage consumers online. In addition, the open platform provided PlayStation 2 partners with a sound business model as they were empowered with control over intellectual property, distribution, the customer relationship and revenue streams. The result was an environment that thrived on success of all involved parties, not just the platform holder.

"To make online console gaming a success and get consumers comfortable with being online in front of their TV, we needed to create an experience that would meet the standards consumers expect when they sit down in their living room -- it has to be fun, compelling content that is easy to enjoy and value priced," said Kaz Hirai, president and chief operating officer, Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. "We attribute this philosophy to the success we've achieved not only with online gaming, but with the PlayStation 2 platform overall. From the very beginning, we developed a platform with the right mix of technology and consumer appeal for its time, but one that would also evolve with our consumers, a system that we could seamlessly enhance and expand when the time was right. As a result, we've penetrated the mass market more quickly than anyone expected with more than 20 million gamers to date."

Milestones Along the Road of Year One

In the first year of its life, PlayStation 2 Online surpassed all expectations and racked up a series of key milestones in the process. At launch, the company projected that it would ship 500,000 Network Adaptors in the fiscal year in its quest to lead consumers online. Proving that the company could successfully sell a peripheral to create an online market, Sony Computer Entertainment America not only met but also doubled the forecasted amount of Network Adaptors, shipping more than one million units in the fiscal year. In addition to growing demand for online gaming, over the last year the company also penetrated the PlayStation 2 platform into the mass-market circle more quickly than anticipated, nearly doubling the size of the installed base from 11 million to more than 20 million in just 12 months.

As Sony Computer Entertainment America set down the path for online gaming, it also committed to leading consumers online by driving compelling content from its first party studios. With more than one million units sold through to consumers, Sony Computer Entertainment America delivered on this promise in spades with the success of SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs. Not only did the first party title garner an overwhelming interest from gamers at launch, but it has sustained that interest over time by appealing to consumers' desire to be part of an ever-changing gaming experience. Even a year after its release, gamers are still averaging more than three hours of online gameplay a day with the first party killer app for PlayStation 2.

The company also began the online journey with a belief that third party publishers needed to be provided flexibility and control in order to create compelling content. One year later, the results of the open model approach include more than 20 publishers developing more than 50 titles for the PlayStation 2 platform by the year-end. In a widely publicized support of the company's open approach to third party software development, Electronic Arts, the world's largest videogame publisher, announced at E3 that it will make its best-selling sports franchises PlayStation 2 online exclusives for the 2003-2004 season including Madden NFL™ 2004, Tiger Woods PGA Tour® 2004, NBA Live 2004, and more.

Applying the Knowledge Learned Along the Way

Year one of online console gaming on PlayStation 2 was about leading consumers online, but it was also about listening to consumers, developers and partners along the way. Sony Computer Entertainment America believes that the online console gaming community is a dynamic universe that will continue to grow and evolve as consumer adoption increases. As such, the company is preparing to introduce a series of technology and content advancements to engage consumers within this community and build customer loyalty now and for future PlayStation platforms.

According to an internal survey, PlayStation 2 gamers play online for the competition and camaraderie that a community provides. To further engage mainstream consumers in the PlayStation 2 online community, today Sony Computer Entertainment America launched a compelling, new online environment -- the 989 Sports® Lobby. The 989 Sports Lobby is the ultimate hangout for sports fans providing a live streaming sports ticker with sports scores from the MLB, NFL, NCAA Football, Basketball and NHL, voice chat across varying games, and accessibility to the 989 Sports Lobby via personal computer or PlayStation 2. In the lobby, avid sports fans will find the perfect arena to showcase their sports trivia knowledge, compete against their peers and stay at the top of their game with roster updates and live stats regarding their favorite teams and players.

Adding a new level of realism and interactive gameplay to the PlayStation 2 online community, Sony Computer Entertainment America will launch a USB Headset (for PlayStation 2) this fall that utilizes Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and voice recognition technologies for use with online and offline first and third party games. The USB Headset will enable users to engage online in real-time, where they can trash-talk with their opponents in NBA ShootOut 2004 or strategize with teammates in SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs. Further differentiating itself from it competitors, Sony Computer Entertainment America will also introduce titles that leverage voice recognition technologies via the USB Headset, meeting consumers demand for an easy gaming experience. Instead of fumbling through intricate plays, gamers can simply call out plays via the USB Headset in NFL GameDay™ 2004 and NCAA® GameBreaker® 2004.

In addition to building community with the 989 Sports Lobby and USB Headset, Sony Computer Entertainment America also plans to launch an internal hard drive (40 GB) in conjunction with Square Enix's highly anticipated massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) FINAL FANTASY®XI, which will allow cross-platform play between a console and personal computer. The introduction of the internal hard drive enhances the possibilities for larger online communities, complex gameplay in intense online environments, and further demonstrates the company's focus on extending the functionalities and capabilities of the PlayStation 2 for a total living room experience including games, movies and music.

Rounding out its commitment to enhancing the online gaming experience, Sony Computer Entertainment America continues to deliver a diverse online title library including the most in-demand genres according to consumers -- action/adventure, sports, racing and role-playing games. As more and more consumers view online gameplay as a competitive advantage, first and third party publishers will provide more than 50 online-enabled titles for consumers to choose from this holiday season. Continuing to deliver on first party content, Sony Computer Entertainment America will capitalize on the success of the online killer app, SOCOM, with the launch SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs this November. And for the sports fanatic, between 989 Sports and EA Sports, consumers will have a bevy of online exclusive content to choose from. The full PlayStation 2 fall online line-up will be announced in the coming weeks.

About Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.

Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. continues to redefine the entertainment lifestyle with its PlayStation® and PS one™ game console, and the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system. The PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system is set to revolutionize the home entertainment market, offering the most compelling interactive content and the capability to be used as a network terminal in the coming broadband era.

Recognized as the undisputed industry leader, Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. markets the PlayStation family of products and develops, publishes, markets and distributes software for the PS one game console and the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system for the North American market. Based in Foster City, Calif. Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. serves as headquarters for all North American operations and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.

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