Rumor: Tiered PSN service coming to PS3

After years of lambasting Microsoft for charging users to access premium online services on the Xbox 360, Sony may finally break down and start doing the same thing on the PS3.

Video game news site reportedly received a credible tip from Sony or someone involved with the company’s online service, confirming that a premium PSN service will be announced at next month’s E3 trade show.

The new upper tier of the PS3’s online service will cost “less than £50 per year.” That’s around $73, though it’s likely that the US price would not follow that conversion rate directly. Xbox Live Gold costs around $40 in the US and also £40 in the UK.

So the price would likely be on par with Microsoft’s subscription service. However, the source assured that the current, free Playstation Network service would remain available. That means users can still play multiplayer games online for free, a feature that costs money on the Xbox 360 and has aggravated some cash-strapped gamers.

“There’s nothing in the premium package which will gimp regular PSN users,” the source said.

So what would the premium PSN service offer? That is still unclear. One feature that was revealed was that anyone who signs up for the service will receive one free downloadable game per month, from a limited selection of a handful of titles.

However, it still confirms that Sony was unable to maintain its online infrastructure as a 100% free service. That’s a bit cost to them and there needs to be some sort of revenue stream there to accommodate the millions of users who log in every day.