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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 on Wednesday. His presentation, part of the Game Developers Conference, 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 the PS3 is an impressive chunk of hardware.

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

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

Harrison said there will be no restrictions on the kind of stuff that will be available, adding that massively multiplayer games and episodic content - whether games, film or TV shows - will play a role down the line. He also hinted that the service 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 the 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 HUB service.

As you've probably guessed, the stuff you download will be stored on the PS3's 60-gigabyte hard drive (three times the size of the Xbox 360's, if you're a "size matters" type), and any downloaded games can be launched off it directly.

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

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