Sony merges PlayStation Network into broader online services

The Tokyo-based tech giant continues to align its once-independent PlayStation platform with its other products and services

Sony will merge its PlayStation online gaming service into its broader online platform from Tuesday.

The company said in a message to PlayStation Network users that their accounts will be rebranded under the Sony Entertainment Network. Online PlayStation users will be rerouted to a new login screen for the more general service, and the first time they sign in will have to agree to a slightly different privacy policy, including new terms related to parental controls.

Sony emphasized that only the name of the network will change, and all login details will remain the same. The move is the latest by the company to integrate its PlayStation platform into its broader services and products, a shift that incoming CEO Kazuo Hirai has said is crucial to its strategy. Last year, Sony combined all of its electronics goods, game consoles and network platforms into a single division, with Hirai in charge, after moving its gaming division from the trendy Aoyama neighborhood of Tokyo to the more business-like Shinagawa district, next to its headquarters, in 2010.

"This helps us get closer to our goal of establishing a global comprehensive network platform of services across games, movies, music and more," the company said of the latest change.

The shift will be implemented in software updates to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita game consoles. The Vita handheld, which was released in Japan last year and is due out in North America and Europe later this month, is due to receive a software update from tomorrow that includes an online map service and adds the ability to shoot videos to its photo app.

While working to bring its broader online contents to its gaming consoles, the company is also trying to expand its gaming holdings to its other devices. Under its "PlayStation Certified" program, Sony has designated some of its tablets and mobile phones as able to seamlessly run certain games, although only a limited number of titles have been offered so far.

Sony said last week that Hirai will become CEO from April, replacing current chief Howard Stringer.

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Jay Alabaster

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