LOS ANGELES--At Sony's pre-E3 event today, we got a chance to try out EyeToy: Chat, a unique "video phone" title coming to the PlayStation 2 this summer. It will use the PS2's proprietary camera peripheral, the EyeToy, to allow users to teleconference with each other. A broadband Internet connection and a network adapter will also be required. We got a chance to confirm that EyeToy: Chat seemed to work as advertised, but to our surprise, we also found that its few simple multiplayer games were actually pretty compelling.
Let's talk about the video conferencing features first, though. Basically, EyeToy: Chat will allow you to build an address book of users, as well as your own profile. You'll be able to look up and communicate with any other user who's online at the time, and the EyeToy will project respective images of you and your interlocutor as you discuss whatever it is you like. Text chat for up to 255 users at a time as well as voice-only chat for as many as 15 simultaneous users will also be supported. And, since you're probably starting to wonder right about now, EyeToy: Chat will also feature a full set of parental controls.
The quality of the video and voice isn't great, since it's sampled down to play in real time over the Internet. If you've seen military correspondents communicating via video phone on the nightly news, that's about how this looks. It's certainly serviceable, and since you won't incur any long-distance charges by communicating in this fashion, it could potentially be a viable way to communicate with distant friends or relatives.
Gameplay obviously isn't the focus of EyeToy: Chat, which features a clean and fairly intuitive interface. However, you've got chess, checkers, and "naval war" (a rip-off of the classic board game, Battleship) available for passing the time between you and any of your contacts. We actually had quite a lot of fun trying out chess and naval war. The classic gameplay of these didn't suffer due to the plain presentation of EyeToy: Chat, and getting to see the other player's reactions enriched the experience. It was surprisingly entertaining.
EyeToy: Chat seems to have a lot of weird potential. Depending on how much it costs and how many people buy in, we think it might very well garner its own dedicated community, in addition to being a potentially useful tool for PS2 owners trying to stay in touch.