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Get Your Wallets Ready for Online Gaming
Remember September 6, 2000? That's the day Sega released NFL 2K1, the first console sports game to include a relatively successful online component. What about January 30, 2001? Sonic Team's Phantasy Star Online hit North American retailers that day, becoming the first online console role-playing game to enjoy both critical and commercial success (of course, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 for the PlayStation 2 deserves a mention as well, even if Sony isn't providing an official modem and matchmaking service for it yet). All those dates and the associated games will become significant footnotes in the history of console games, because, among other milestones, they also mark the last time that you'll be playing online console games free of charge. Whether it is on the Xbox, PS2, or GameCube, you will have to pay to play online console games--get very comfortable with the idea. PC users have been paying to play server-based massively multiplayer games for years, and that formula is coming to consoles sooner than you think.
Will you pay the projected $10 a month to play Final Fantasy XI online?
Another issue is the problem with creating an online consumer base for consoles in the first place, because that demographic skews considerably younger than the PC market. How do you get little Timmy to pay for the ISP service and then dish out extra cash for each individual MMORPG? The allowance money isn't going to cover it. The publishers and console makers are throwing around a variety of ideas, but the one that has seemed to stick thus far is a prepaid-card service. Each console manufacturer would provide a prepaid card that would provide its holder access to online games on its respective consoles. Parents could put any amount of cash on the card and let the kids decide how to spend it. The idea sounds like a solid one on the surface, but it is still an untested business plan. Will parents be willing to pay hefty fees on the front end for these cards to keep the kids happy and playing online games for months?
Will promising games like PlanetSide be released on console platforms?
Whatever the case, there will be tons of great online games in 2002 and onward. You need to start saving up now if you want to be able to afford the payments involved in playing these games.
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