Sony has greeted Microsoft's announcement this week that Xbox Live now has 350,000 users with scorn. It has issued a counter-statement claiming sales of over 600,000 PS2 network adapters.
Sony may have remained aloof throughout Microsoft and Nintendo's ridiculous spat over second place in the console race earlier this year, but it seems that online gaming is a more sensitive point with the market leader, and Microsoft's triumphant announcement has raised hackles in Tokyo and kicked off a round of "mine's bigger than yours" press releases.
Microsoft claims that it has sold 350,000 units of the Xbox Live Starter Kit in the USA and Japan (it's not clear whether the figure includes European Xbox Live Test Drive users; the service officially launches here on Friday week), representing a significant success for the service. Sony's counter-claim is that it has rolled out 0.6 million PS2 Network Adapters in the Japan and USA, despite the fact that the Japanese market is only due to see retail units of the hardware later this spring (as it was previously available only through rental from an ISP).
Sony launched the PS2 online service in the USA last August, and no concrete plans for a European launch have yet emerged - although it's known that beta testing is scheduled to start later this year.
One big question, however, is what exactly those 600,000 lucky owners of PS2 network adapters are doing with them. 200,000 odd of them are accounted for by the subscribers to Final Fantasy XI in Japan, but did 0.4 million people in North America really run out and buy the sparsely supported and under-promoted network adapters - and if so, what on earth are they doing with them?