Sony spelt out plans in Tokyo yesterday to launch the long-awaited hard disk drive and ethernet connector for the PlayStation 2 (PS2).
Japanese consumers can expect to be using the new drive and link-up cable this winter, but no mention was made of a launch date for Europe. The PS2 launches in Europe this autumn.
The ethernet link allows connection to the PC Card terminal interface on Japanese models of the PS2. Once equipped, according to Sony, it will be possible to form a high speed, high bandwidth connection with high capacity networks like CATV or DSL lines. Sony said the unit could be used for direct download of digital content.
Adding a disk drive to the system could change the way gamers play, and alter the format of the games themselves. According to Sony, games in the near future could be a mix of CD-based original code interacting with downloaded files. This might mean extra tracks in car racing games, extra levels in shoot-em-ups, new characters in RPGs and so on. Sony has yet to announce the storage capacity of the drive.
Game play should also benefit from the addition of a hard disk. Swapping discs halfway through multi-disc games would become a thing of the past, as whole games could be pre-loaded onto the hard drive.
With the facility to download regular new instalments, Sony said games could even become long running 'serials', with base code stored on the hard disk supplemented by newly downloaded episodes.
Plans to broaden the appeal and functionality of the PS2 could be enhanced by the new drive - users wanting to edit and store digital pictures or video from camcorders will now have somewhere to keep the finished article.
Sony said it plans to work with partners to develop new forms of applications and services that use the new add-ons. UK consumers may be left out of the fun, however, while they wait for broadband facilities to come within easy and affordable reach.
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