Microsoft has announced the pricing structure set by Sega's Sonic Team for the upcoming Xbox version of Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II. The game will retail for a slightly discounted price of $39.99 and will come with 60 days of free online play. Past the 60-day trial period, Sega has decided that players wishing to play the game over Xbox Live will be charged $8.95 per month. This money will go towards funding Sonic Team's continued support of the game via downloadable quests and the like. The quests will become available on the same schedule as the currently available GameCube version.
Phantasy Star Online can be played in its offline mode, but the game will still require you to have a valid Xbox Live account to play the game in any form. The reasoning behind this is one of timing. The Japanese version of the game was a pack-in with Xbox Live, where requiring an Xbox Live sign-up made sense. In order to get the game over here quickly, Microsoft has opted not to remove this limitation. Citing security reasons, Microsoft also announced that the North American version of the game will not connect to players from other regions.
The game will feature voice support via the Xbox Live headset. In lobbies, the headset will allow you to chat with the seven players closest to you. Those seven players will be denoted by a speaker icon, which will float above their heads. When in a game, you can play and chat with up to three other players.
Microsoft currently expects the Xbox version of Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II to ship to retail stores on or around February 25, putting it on most store shelves within two to seven days after that date. We'll have more information as it becomes available.