Eric Lempel, director of PlayStation Network operations, has recently said a great deal about the future of the Network in an interview on GameTrailers' Bonus Round. First, he said it's possible the Network won't always be free, and second, he promises users they'll soon see all the features Xbox Live boasts. But at the same time, he believes the Network and Live are on roughly the same ground.

“Microsoft had a year jump on us for the launch and essentially we’re offering a lot of the same stuff. I don’t think there’s a big difference in exactly what we’re offering when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of what’s actually there for the consumer… We’re not charging money for our service. That’s a key differentiating factor.”

But Lempel did say Sony was planning to emulate several of Xbox Live's most successful features, including cross-game invites, the ability to access the cross-media bar while playing online, and an achievements system. PlayStation Home will provide trophies, but we assume there will be a separate achievement system for the Network at some point.

“I like how their marketplace is integrated directly into their user interface… Talking across games is fantastic. That definitely builds momentum for games and actually migrate users to other games and keeps you in touch with your gaming community. We’re working on an achievements system… I can’t say if it’s definitely tied to a gamerscore or something like Xbox does but that is an important feature."

Lempel concluded by saying the idea of a unified PlayStation community hasn't been overlooked, and that "efforts were being made to that effect." So in other words, it seems apparent the Network is on the way up, building and upgrading as time goes on. The unified community is only one example, and Lempel says "there's a lot more coming."

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