As many have predicted the days of free online gaming are drawing to an end, with Sony planning to launch its online forum in the spring of next year.

The network, for its Playstation users, will first launch in the UK, followed by Germany, France, Spain and other countries following throughout the year.

Although users will not be expected to pay a monthly subscription fee, they will have to shell out a one-off charge of £44.99 for a broadband gaming pack. Once connected, users can enter the forum as many times as they wish and all they'll have to pay is their regular broadband subscription fee.

The pack will include an Ethernet adapter to make the console internet-ready, an online game and a start-up disc featuring demos of upcoming games.

Sony has around a dozen online games in the pipeline, from both its in-house team and external developers, including Eidos and Electronic Arts.

Nintendo has already begun selling its internet adapter packs in the USA for its GameCube console, which should reach our shores early next year. Microsoft's Xbox online community will launch in the UK in March, with other European countries to follow throughout the year.