The PlayStation 2 will finally go online in the UK on June 11 as the Network Adapter kit arrives at retail, priced at Â£24.99, with two multiplayer-enabled titles available at launch and several more to come.
The official launch of the service follows several months of consumer trials, which Sony describes as successful, and will be supported by key broadband providers including Telewest Broadband, BT Openworld and BT Retail, NTL and Freeserve.
The two games available at launch will be SOCOM: US Navy SEALs and Twisted Metal Black Online. SOCOM, a military action title which includes a voice communication headset, has proved massively successful in the USA, with over a million copies sold. It will be sold separately from the Network Adapter kit, priced at Â£49.99.
Twisted Metal Black Online, however, will be launched as a cut-price product - sold as a standalone title for Â£24.99, or available with the Network Adapter kit for Â£39.99.
The company has a number of other titles planned for the service, including This Is Football 2004, Destruction Derby Arenas and Hardware. EA has announced that it will be developing its EA Sports titles exclusively for PS2 online, and RPG fans can look forward to Square Enix' massively multiplayer title, Final Fantasy XI, which is expected to launch alongside the PS2 hard drive towards the end of this year.
"Our ethos remains one of having a very diverse and inclusive platform," commented SCE UK managing director Ray Maguire, "that will enable content companies, games publishers and ISPs to provide consumers with the broadest selection of new network experiences and entertainment from a variety of sources."
The PS2 online system differs substantially from the Xbox Live system in that it does not incur an annual subscription fee for the use of the service, and Sony are giving publishers far more leeway to control how their own games are hosted - and indeed to charge users for playing them.
The Â£24.99 price point for the Network Adapter kit seems to be a bit of a last minute decision, however - only a few weeks ago we were all being led to believe that it would be released at Â£19.99. It still makes the kit cheaper than Microsoft's Xbox Live Starter Kit though, which should be worth some mileage at retail even if the level of functionality offered by the two products is not directly comparable.