Companies to build gaming network overseas

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) and NTT DoCoMo Inc. signed a series of deals Monday with DoCoMo’s overseas partners to build mobile Internet gaming platforms for users of SCEI’s PlayStation video game console and I-mode cellphones around the world, the companies said in a statement.

The deals mirror an earlier agreement between the two companies in Japan and were signed with AT&T Wireless Group, Hong Kong’s Hutchison Telephone Co. Ltd., Hutchison 3G UK Ltd., Taiwan’s KG Telecommunications Co. Ltd., Dutch KPN Mobile NV and Telecom Italia Mobile — all companies that DoCoMo is working with on development of third generation mobile services.

Together, the companies plan to build a series of new network services for PlayStation users. Full details of the services, which will be accessible via game consoles and cellular telephones, are yet to be announced, although users will be able to access services from DoCoMo’s cellphone-based I-mode system through their consoles and play PlayStation games via their cellphone handsets.

It’s also unknown when the services will be launched. “We don’t have a timeframe for introduction in Europe yet,” said Marinus Potman, spokesman for KPN Mobile. He also said no date has been picked for launch in the U.S.

SCEI and DoCoMo began designing a similar service for the Japanese market after they signed a deal in mid 2000. Launch of the system is expected in March this year, at which point more details of the service are to be announced.

No money is changing hands with the signing of the memorandums of understanding, KPN Mobile said. “DoCoMo and Sony profit from the technology being offered outside of Japan. We are not buying or licensing the technology,” said Potman.

Potman expects the companies “to pay their share” of the research and development costs. “This is about jointly developing technology,” he said.

Users will have to pay extra to play games on their mobile phones. “The games won’t be free,” said Potman.

KPN has not researched demand for a mobile gaming service, but the company is certain it will be a success. “Teenagers are already playing simple games on their mobile phones and PlayStation is as big a hit in Europe as it is in the U.S. and Japan. The consoles are flying of the shelves,” Potman said.

It is unknown what kind of handset the mobile gaming service will require, said Potman. The Dutch company is currently in talks with several handset manufacturers, he said. KPN Mobile will run the service on its packet-switched GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network is to be launched for consumer use this summer.

NTT DoCoMo, in Tokyo, can be contacted at SCEI, in Tokyo, can be contacted at