Video game console leader Sony Corp. Thursday demonstrated the online service for its upcoming PlayStation 3, which will let players compete and chat online and download games, music and movies.
Gamers have long been clamoring for details about the online system for Sony's much-anticipated PS3 console.
Sony's current PlayStation 2 was released in the mid-1990s and has roughly 60 percent market share.
But underdog Microsoft Corp. has had a breakout hit with its Xbox Live online service for its next-generation Xbox 360 released last year. The Xbox 360 is the rival to Sony's PS3, which is set to debut in North America on November 17.
The PlayStation Network, as the service will be called, uses a navigation system already available on Sony's hand held game player, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), Sony Computer Entertainment America said Thursday.
"This is what a lot of people have been waiting for ages for," said John Davison, editorial director for the 1UP Network of video game-focused Web sites.
Sony said its service will allow PS3 users to compete and chat with other gamers on the network; download game content like weapons or maps; store and view pictures and video; download and listen to music; browse the Web; and shop at the online PlayStation Store.
Online play, chat and other features will be free to users, who will have to pay to download some content.
Sony said downloadable games provided by its units will cost less than $15 at launch.
Both Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox also offered online services. With about 4 million users, however, the Xbox 360 is the first to attract a relatively high percentage of users to its service -- roughly 60 percent.
A Sony executive said there were 3 million online service users for the PS2, which has sold more than 106 million units.
Emphasizing the ability of the PS3 to play high-definition videos, Sony also said that the first 500,000 systems shipped in North America will include "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," the Sony Pictures Entertainment comedy starring Will Ferrell.
Some analysts expect movie fans to buy the PS3, priced at $500 and $600, as a machine to play high-definition DVDs in the new Blu-ray format. Blu-Ray competes with Toshiba Corp.-championed HD-DVD in a new standards war for next-generation DVDs.