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Sony's plans unveiled at GDC

Sony Computer Entertainment president Phil Harrison took the stage on Wednesday to talk PS3 and PSP with a huge, unruly crowd. His presentation, part of the Game Developers Conference in California, raised almost as many questions about the next-gen console as it answered. Two things are clear, though: Sony is laser-focused on online functionality, and PS3 is an impressive chunk of hardware.

The thrust of Harrison's speech centred on Sony's 'Beyond the Box' strategy, which outlines its plans not only for online play (at least some version of which will be free, incidentally) but for online content distribution and video chat during game sessions, too.

What this means for you is that - much like on Microsoft's Xbox Live - you'll be able to download new games and add-on content through a fee-based online shop.

Massively multiplayer games and episodic content - whether games, films or TV shows - will play a role in the online service down the line. Harrison also hinted that it could eventually be an alternative to buying game discs, or even replace them entirely if the market calls for it.

Harrison was also enthusiastic about roping in the World of Warcraft crowd, saying that PS3's online service will be equipped to play massively multiplayer games. Publishers will even be able to hook their own servers into Sony's network, allowing for (hopefully) seamless play through the PS3 hub.

As you've probably guessed, the content you download will be stored on PS3's 60GB hard drive - that's three times the size of Xbox 360's - and any downloaded games can be launched from it directly.

Harrison declined to answer when later asked if the hard drive will be included - odd, considering Sony sources in both the UK and US have stated within the past week that console and drive will ship together.

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