US PS3 video rentals due in 'summer,' Life with PlayStation revealed

Sony announces long-awaited video-download service, will reveal Wii News-like global-news browser at E3; game division still on course to profitability.

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This morning in Tokyo, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai spoke at a press conference held as part of a presentation titled "Sony's Sony Group Corporate Strategy Update FY2008-FY2010." The update outlined a corporate-wide initiative to "roll out video services across key Sony products" by the end of Sony's 2010 fiscal year, which ends on March 31, 2011.

Luckily for gamers, Sony considers the PlayStation 3 to be especially key; the company announced that its video offensive is "starting with the summer 2008 launch on the PlayStation Network." According to most calendars, the first day of the northern hemisphere's warmest season begins on the summer solstice (June 20) and ends on the Autumnal equinox (September 20).

According to a Dengeki Online report filed from the conference, Hirai showed a slide that demonstrated a high-definition download of the film Ghost Rider for $5.99. Though the screen said "Purchase Confirmation," a subsequent slide confirmed that PlayStation Network films would only be rentals, as they are on Xbox Live Marketplace. (HD XBLM film rentals cost $5.99, and SD rentals cos $3.99.) The Dengeki report said that the PlayStation Network would also offer SD video, but did not say if television shows would be available. Hirai promised more details at next month's E3 Media & Business Summit.

Though it was short on specifics, Sony was long on optimism about the PS3's video service. "In the Game segment, the two key drivers of new growth are non-game content and services in tandem with enhanced network capability," the company said in a statement. The company also said that in the current fiscal year, which ends on March 31, 2009, it plans to "continue PS3 cost reduction initiatives," "accelerate PS3 sales through upcoming key franchise software titles, " and "continue to expand the PS3 customer base through the strength of Blu-ray Disc." Earlier this year, Blu-ray emerged victorious in the next-generation console war after Toshiba abruptly ceased HD DVD support.

As a result of the aforementioned efforts, Sony Computer Entertainment now reasserted its prediction that it will turn a profit for the current fiscal year. Hirai also reportedly told the conference that during the second half of Sony's previous fiscal year, which ended March 31, PS3 sales were up 200 percent, with PSP sales up 146 percent.

In addition to the video services and the financial details, Hirai's presentation also included the first details about a totally unexpected--but very familiar-looking--service, "Life with PlayStation." Outlined in a slide show snapped by Dengeki, the service looks like a more complex version of the Wii's news service, which lets users take a satellite's-eye view to literally spin the globe and peruse international news by clicking on dozens of cities. (Washington, DC was used as an example.) However, unlike Wii News, Life will PlayStation will also apparently have more general information about major cities, including photos of landmarks.

Check out GameSpot's coverage of Sony's E3 press conference at 11:30am on July 15 for the full US unveiling of the PlayStation Network video store and Life with PlayStation service.

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