The next PS3 firmware update is likely to include support for in-game instant messaging and also audio and video chats. Speculation is rife at the moment, after information mysteriously appeared on Sony’s US PlayStation site. It disappeared again just as quickly as it had popped up, but not before an eagle-eyed fanboy spotted it.

Luckily the page is still stored in Google’s cache – which just goes to show that once something goes up online, it really can never be removed.

“Friends & Messaging: Talk to others during game play, say hello anytime you’re online, or have a video chat with an Eye camera; USB Camera or headset,” said the section on the SCEA page.

In-game XMB access

It’s long been expected that PS3 gamers would soon be able to access the console’s XMB (cross media bar) from inside games. So it seems likely that this new messaging system will come along at the same time as that feature.

“Is it big news? Not really, but it is important as it would give PS3's online service parity, if not indeed more features than, Xbox Live. The big difference of course, is that playing PS3 online is free, unlike a Live subscription,” said Dan Dawkins, editor of one of our sister titles, PSM3 Magazine.

“PS3 owners have been crying out for in-game XMB messaging, and given Sony's excellent track record for 'fixing' missing or clumsy features (many of which, admittedly, that should have been there in the first place) via firmware updates, it looks incredibly likely to happen, and soon. The PS3's online service might not initially have topped Xbox Live, but it will, and soon - expect some pleasant surprises over the next six months,” he said.