One of the nice things about Sony's PS3 is that Sony's online service, the Playstation Network (PSN), is free to use. Compare this to Microsoft's Xbox 360 and its Xbox Live online service where a "Gold" membership costs about $50 a year. In order to play games online with an Xbox, you need a Gold membership. (Microsoft does offer a free "Silver" tier with limited capability.)
It sounds like this is going to be changing, as Sony has revealed plans for a "Premium" tier for the PSN. At a Sony Media/Investor Conference presentation, a slide was shown citing "New Revenue Stream from Subscription" as one of the "5 Key Advantages of the Playstation 3." According to Gamespot, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai confirmed this bullet point but then added in a follow-up statement:
Especially in the online area, we are studying the possibility of introducing a subscription model, offering premium content and services, in addition to the current free services.
So no cause for panic yet; it doesn't sound like PS3 owners who opt not to go Premium will lose any existing features. On the other hand, the PSN has a ways to go before it catches up with the functionality of Xbox Live. Let's hope features like cross-game chat and a party system don't fall under some future "Premium" umbrella.
In case you feel like you aren't spending enough cash via your PS3 and Xbox 360, now your Wii can suck money out of your wallet, at least in Japan. CrunchGear reports that Nintendo Japan is now offering paid content streaming via the Wii. There's no word yet on whether this paid service is destined for other parts of the world, but free video streaming on the Wii is set to hit North America in 2010.
And lastly, remember the story about Microsoft locking out unauthorized storage devices? According to Joystiq (and a press release from law firm Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin), Datel is suing Microsoft over the decision:
Howard Rice Director Marty Glick, the senior attorney representing Datel in the lawsuit, said, “Microsoft has taken steps to render inoperable the competing Datel memory card for no visible purpose other than to have that market entirely to themselves. They accomplished their recent update by making a system change that will not recognize or allow operation of a memory card with greater capacity than their own. We believe that with the power Microsoft enjoys in the market for Xbox accessories this conduct is unlawful.”
While Datel winning this one would be good for consumers as well as for Datel, I won't be holding my breath. But hold on to those now non-functioning Datal Memory Units, just in case!