Las Vegas (NV) - Users will soon be able to access PS3 console settings, send instant messages, and scroll through other system options while in the middle of a game.
The console's main menu, known as the XMB (Cross Media Bar), handles the entire navigation of the PS3, including access to music, video, games, and online options. The latter of that list is the most significant part of this future update.
As it stands now, to send a basic message to another PS3 user while playing a game, you need to exit the game and access the "friends" feature from the XMB. Some games do allow you to send an invite for other users to join you, but it forces you into a game room and you have no way of communicating after that. Adding the in-game XMB functionality would be crucial to chatting with people without needing to find a save point, quit the game, and then access the messaging feature.
We spoke to a couple different Sony reps who weren't sure about the news, which has been reported by various sources, but eventually tracked down a guy who confirmed it. We couldn't get any specific details as to when this new feature would be added, but the rep did say it should be part of a firmware update some time this year.
Despite its presence as one of Sony's major divisions, video games are scarce at the company's booth. It did show off a demo of Little Big Planet, an anticipated online PS3 game, and gave us the announcement of a September 2008 launch for that title, but otherwise it's all about Sony's OLED HDTVs and the Rolly dancing MP3 player.