PlayStation Network touts 20 million users, Home hits 4 million

Sony claims new milestone for combined PS3, PSP online service, with 15 million users added in the last year; popularity of still-in-beta virtual world grows.

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Despite gloomy holiday sales and being outsold by both the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, Sony's PlayStation brand has one spot of brightness: the PlayStation Network continues to grow. Last year, Sony proudly proclaimed that the PSN had more than 14 million active accounts, matching that of the Xbox 360.

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Strong sales of the 360, thanks in part to its new Xbox experience and low-price hardware, have helped push Xbox Live past Sony with 17 Million active users as of January 2009, just over half of which are premium Gold subscriptions that allow online play.

Today Sony has announced that it has now surpassed Xbox Live with 20 million subscribers for its free-to-use service. The subscriber base represents explosive growth for Sony, given that the service reached only 5 million users in its first 12 months but has added a further 15 million in a little over a year. The service includes both PS3 and PSP users, and Sony has not disclosed the subscriber split between the two platforms.

Sony also unveiled a figure for PlayStation Home, saying the service now has more than 4 million users. Launched last December, the avatar-based virtual world/game matchmaking service remains officially in open beta.

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