Online console gaming
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Online console gaming involves connecting a console to a network over the Internet for services. Through this connection, it provides users the ability to play games with other users online, in addition to other online services.
The three most common networks now are Microsoft's Xbox Live, Sony's PlayStation Network, and Nintendo's Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and Nintendo Network. These networks feature cross platform capabilities which allows users to use a single account. However, the services provided by both are still limited to the console connected (e.g. an Xbox 360 cannot download an Xbox One game).
During the 1990s a number of online gaming networks were introduced for home consoles, but due to a multitude of problems they failed to make a significant impact on the console gaming industry.
The first online initiative, the Sega Net Work System was a network service in Japan for people using the Sega Mega Drive. Debuting in 1990, this service worked with the Game Toshokan (literally Game Library) cartridge to download games on the console (meaning that the game will have to be re-downloaded each time). Players attached a MegaModem (modem, with a speed of 1,600 to 2,400 bit/s) to the "EXT" DE-9 port on the back of the Mega Drive, and used it to dial up other players to play games. There was a monthly fee of ¥800 
Sega then brought a similar online service to North America, the Sega Channel, debuted in the winter of 1994. Sega Channel provided users the opportunity to download new games straight to their consoles with the purchase of a cartridge similar sold through General Instruments. The service cost $15 (USD) per month and at one point had over 250,000 American subscribers while also building a following overseas but Sega decided to halt the project and provide an online portal in their new console the Sega Saturn.
The Satellaview was launched in mid-1995 for the Super Famicom in Japan. The access provided downloadable versions of hit games free to the user but required the user to download the games only at certain times through a TV antenna, in a fashion similar to recording a TV show.
In 1994 an American company, Catapult Entertainment, developed the Xband, a 3rd party peripheral which provided customers the ability to connect with other users and play games through network connections. The peripheral cost $19.99 (USD) and required a monthly fee of $4.95 (USD) for 50 sessions/month or $9.95 (USD) for unlimited use. The Xband supported the Super NES and Sega Genesis consoles and received a mushrooming installed base (the number of users quadrupled over the second half of 1995), but once the Super NES and Sega Genesis's popularity faded the peripheral was discontinued.
NET Link, Sega Saturn’s version of the Sega Channel provided users with the ability to surf the web, check email, and play multiplayer games online. Released in 1996, the modem peripheral cost $199 (USD) and came with a web brower program and a free month of access.
The first home console with built-in internet connection, the Apple Pippin, was launched in 1996. However, its $599 price tag kept it from effectively competing with other internet gaming options (by comparison, the Sega Saturn and its separately sold Netlink device combined cost less than $400).
In 1999 Nintendo decided to take another shot at online gaming with the Nintendo 64DD. The new peripheral was delayed often and only released in Japan, it provided users to connect with each other and share in-game art and designs and even play games online, after purchasing the peripheral for 30,000 yen. The 64DD failed to impact gamers as it was released shortly before Nintendo announced the release of its new console, the GameCube, and only nine games would be released supporting the new peripheral.
SegaNet became a short-lived internet service operated by Sega, geared for dial-up based online gaming on their Dreamcast game console. A replacement for Sega's original, PC-only online gaming service, Heat.net, it was initially quite popular when launched on September 10, 2000. Unlike a standard ISP, game servers would be connected directly into SegaNet's internal network, providing very low connection latency between the consoles and servers along with standard Internet access.
Xbox Live (trademarked as Xbox LIVE) is an online multiplayer gaming and digital media delivery service created and operated by Microsoft Corporation. It was first made available to the Xbox system in 2002. An updated version of the service became available for the Xbox 360 console at that system's launch in 2005. The service was extended in 2007 on the Windows platform, named Games for Windows – Live, which makes most aspects of the system available on Windows computers. Microsoft has announced plans to extend Live to other platforms such as handhelds and mobile phones as part of the Live Anywhere initiative. With Microsoft's new mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7, full Xbox Live functionality is integrated into new Windows Phones that launched in late 2010.
The Xbox Live service is available as both a free and subscription-based service, known as Xbox Live Free and Xbox Live Gold respectively, with several features such as online gaming restricted to the Gold service. Prior to October 2010, the free service was known as Xbox Live Silver. It was announced on June 10, 2011 that the service is going to be fully integrated into Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8.
PlayStation Network, often abbreviated as PSN, is an online multiplayer gaming and digital media delivery service provided/run by Sony Computer Entertainment for use with the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita video game consoles.
The Nintendo Network is Nintendo's second online service after Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to provide online play for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U compatible games. It was announced on January 26, 2012, at an investor's conference. Nintendo's president Satoru Iwata said, "Unlike Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, which has been focused upon specific functionalities and concepts, we are aiming to establish a platform where various services available through the network for our consumers shall be connected via Nintendo Network service so that the company can make comprehensive proposals to consumers." Nintendo's plans include personal accounts for Wii U, digitally distributed packaged software, and paid downloadable content.
The Wii console is able to connect to the Internet through its built-in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi or through a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, with both methods allowing players to access the established Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. Wireless encryption by WEP, WPA (TKIP/RC4) and WPA2 (CCMP/AES) are supported. AOSS support was discreetly added in System Menu version 3.0. Just as for the Nintendo DS, Nintendo does not charge fees for playing via the service and the 12 digit Friend Code system controls how players connect to one another. Each Wii also has its own unique 16 digit Wii Code for use with Wii's non-game features. This system also implements console-based software including the Wii Message Board. One can also connect to the internet with third-party devices.
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