Sony has revealed the online strategy for its PlayStation 3 (PS3) console, claiming the new PlayStation Network will rival Microsoft’s Xbox Live service.

When PS3 owners switch on the console, they’ll be presented with the Xross Media Bar interface that provides access to gaming, network and web connections.

The US arm of the Japanese firm said PS3 owners will be able to enjoy many network services for free from day one. Users who connect to the PS3 Store will find various downloads, including game demos and other “casual” games.

Sony claimed to be the world’s “console king”, having sold 105 million PS2s, but admitted that Microsoft had set the pace for online gaming with Xbox Live. Around 60 percent of Xbox 360 owners pay to use its online features, according to Sony.

The company promises that the PS3 will offer far more than traditional games consoles, with users able to download and listen to music, shop online and chat using IM, voice or video.

“The PS3 system features technologies that are truly next generation,” said Kaz Hirai chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment America.

But the gaming experience will be the prime reason to buy the new product, and Sony has announced the debut titles that will be available when the console is launched in the US and Japan in November.

Included in the initial batch of PS3 titles are Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007 and Ridge Racer 7, with most expected to retail for under $60 (£32).

The PS3 is not due for release in Europe until March 2007.