At the end of last month, footage and screens of what purported to be two major new additions to the PlayStation 3 hit the Web. The first was the introduction of PS3 trophies, the console's equivalent to the Xbox 360 achievement system, which was first revealed at the 2007 Game Developers Conference. The second was an in-game XrossMediaBar (XMB), a feature that would allow players access to friends' lists, messages, and game invitations much like the 360's blade menu system. Currently, PS3 owners must quit their games to access the XMB.
In April, SCEA senior vice president of marketing and PlayStation Network Peter Dille promised that in-game XMBs would arrive this year. Information accompanying the leaked footage and screens said the PS3 development kits displaying the feature and the trophies was running v2.40 of the console firmware. Given that Sony's v2.20, v2.30, and v2.35 firmware upgrades were released one month apart in mid-March, mid-April, and mid-May, Sony's numbering system dictated that the v2.40 firmware would likely arrive sometime around mid-June.
Today, just days short of the summer solstice, Sony announced its next firmware update would be coming soon--and that it wouldn't be v2.40 after all. "A new PlayStation 3 firmware update (v2.36) will be launching soon, improving system stability when playing select PlayStation format software titles," PlayStation Network Operations director Eric Lempel announced on the official PlayStation Blog.
Luckily, Sony--which had remained mum during the May leaks--also came clean today, confirming v2.40 of the PS3 firmware will indeed contain the previously mentioned features. "We're also happy to officially report that the 2.40 system software update for PS3 will include XMB access in-game," continued Lempel. "The update will also include trophies, an exciting new feature that we'll be providing more details on soon, as well as some other new enhancements."
Unfortunately, Sony was silent on further in-game XMB and PS3 trophy details. Besides the v2.40 firmware's unspecified launch date, questions remain about whether or not the in-game XMB will allow the playing of custom soundtracks from ripped audio or connected MP3 players, as the 360 does. It is also unclear if the PS3's Web browser will be accessible during gameplay, a functionality that would allow players to use Internet game guides on the fly midgame.
It also remains to been seen whether or not the PS3's trophy system would have a cross-game numerical value akin to the 360's GamerScore or whether the system will be retroactively bestowed on titles a la Dual Shock 3 rumble functionality. There also is no information as to whether, in multiplatform titles, Sony would dole out trophies for the same in-game feats that yield 360 achievements.
So far, Sony has only officially revealed that it would award trophies as 3D, virtual statuettes to display in a player's in-game abode in PlayStation Home. That avatar-based service was recently further delayed and is tentatively set to launch at the end of the year.