Since Sony's Pre-E3 press conference rumors have been making the rounds on forums, fueled by the speculation of Microsoft pundit "Major Nelson" and fans of his show, that Sony would not be including online gaming as part of their "Basic Community Services", which would be free to any PS3 owner.
The basis of this statement was that Kaz Hirai, during the press conference, ran a slide that did not include online gaming as part of the "Basic Community Services". Although he did list the features on the slide as features "beyond just gaming", confusion still arose and Sony's plans were called into question.
Today however, a PR Manager from Sony Computer Entertainment America reportedly stated that gaming would be free, stating: "Please note that online gaming will be free right out of the box."
Whether or not this statement was actually made by SCEA has come into question however. After contacting SCEA PR to inquire as to the nature of their statement, PS3Portal was told that they did "not want to comment at this time" on whether or not the statement is an accurate representation of their online stance.
Sony has touted free online as an advantage over Microsoft's free XBox LIVE account, called a "Silver" account, which does not include online gaming as one of its services. The pricing structure for premium and downloadable content has still not been outlined.
It is also important to note that Sony is not stopping developers from charging a fee for online play, and that many MMO's will likely still require a subscription fee to play.
Editor's Note: Paragraph four was added at 5:04 Pacific Standard Time after an inquiry to Sony Computer Entertainment.