theater system, using the same cables that you use to hook up a VCR or
DVD player. You can even use the Xbox or PS2 as a DVD player!
Todayâ€™s game consoles can offer some awesome gaming experiences. Try
playing the Xbox game Halo on a big-screen TV with a Surround sound
system in place . . . itâ€™s amazing â€” you can even get a full HDTV (High
Definition TV) picture on the Xbox, with certain games. And because these
gaming consoles are really nothing more than specialized computers, they
can offer the same kind of networking capabilities that a PC does â€” in other
words, they can fit right into your wireless home network.
You canâ€™t just take your console out of the box and connect it to your wire-
less network, however. Here are three steps that you need to take; we talk
about each in more detail in the following sections:
230 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
1. Get the networking kit appropriate to your console.
2. Get signed up with an online gaming service.
3. Get a wireless Ethernet bridge (see Figure 12-1) to make the connection.
Ethernet port Ethernet port
Broadband Wi-Fi Access
Cat5e patch cable
Television (Back view)
Audio/Video inputs cable
Game console (Back view)
a game (RJ-45)
Console online gaming services
In this section, we conjoin our discussion of the first two requirements listed
previously: the networking kit and the online gaming service. For the Xbox,
these two items are one and the same. Conversely, for PlayStation and
GameCube, theyâ€™re separate steps, as we discuss shortly.
Can your games get online?
As you get into online gaming with your game console, keep this one
common requirement in mind: You need to have games that are online capa-
ble. As we write this book, online gaming services have been available for
only a few months, and the number of games that can be played online is rel-
atively limited. Most of the games that you already own (if you have one of
Chapter 12: Gaming over a Wireless Home Network
these consoles now) probably donâ€™t have online gaming capabilities.
Fortunately, all the gaming software companies that we know are bringing out
a ton of online-capable games, so this wonâ€™t be a major limiting factor if
youâ€™re just now getting into online gaming.
Online capable games cost about the same as regular games for these
consoles â€” about $20â€“$50, and the price of the service depends upon the
game and console youâ€™re using. Microsoft, for example, charges $50/year
for its gaming service, which covers all the games available.
The cost of getting into online gaming will be higher than just the price of the
kit or service. You also need to account for the cost of new, online-ready
games. Plus, none of the gaming services that we discuss here includes the
broadband Internet access that you need to make them work. Youâ€™ve got to
have a broadband Internet service, and then you need to buy the equipment
and get the online gaming service set up.
Living large with Xbox
In many ways, Microsoftâ€™s Xbox is the most online-ready of the gaming con-
soles that we discuss. Xbox is the only console to come with a built-in net-
working port (an RJ-45, or Ethernet, jack). And Microsoftâ€™s online gaming
service, Xbox Live (www.xboxlive.com) is (in our opinion) the furthest
along so far in terms of games available and number of participants.
Remember that all these services are quite new.
To get online with Xbox Live, you need to buy a $50 kit (available at www.
xbox.com/live), which is a combination of hardware and service. In other
words, you get the components that you need to get online as well as a year
of gaming service. As of this writing, 14 Xbox Live-enabled games are on the
Microsoft doesnâ€™t provide the broadband service for Xbox Live (none of the
gaming companies do) â€” just the gaming service itself. Thus, you need to
already have a cable or DSL modem set up in your home. What Microsoft
does do â€” and this is a bit different from what Sony and Nintendo do with
their online gaming â€” is host its own online service that you connect to
when you sign on to Xbox Live. You need to sign up for only one service to
play online games with your Xbox. Sony and Nintendo rely on game software
vendors to set up their own online gaming services, so you might need to
subscribe to one service for Game A and another for Game B.
Xbox Live includes a software disc to get things set up on your console as
well as a headset that plugs into one of the Xboxâ€™s controller ports. This
headset enables a really cool feature of Xbox Live â€” voice chat during game
play. With this, you can add your own running commentary to the game while
you blow past your opponent on the racecourse or blow up her tank.
232 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
Because the Xbox comes out of the box with a built-in Ethernet port, the
Xbox Live kit doesnâ€™t contain any other networking hardware. You just need
to connect your Xbox to the wireless network (using a wireless Ethernet
bridge as we discuss in the upcoming section â€śConsole wireless networking
equipmentâ€ť), insert the Xbox Live disc into your Xbox, and follow the on-
screen instructions. Youâ€™ll be prompted to enter a Gamertag â€” your online
â€śhandleâ€ť or screen name â€” as well as your actual name, address info, credit
card number, and a subscription code (youâ€™ll usually find this inside the disc
case that your Xbox Live disc came in). After you do all this, your account is
registered, and youâ€™re ready to game.
Microsoft doesnâ€™t let you change your Gamertag after the fact, so pick one
you like â€” youâ€™re stuck with it.
Playing online with PlayStation 2 (PS2)
Although the Xbox, with its Xbox Live service, is probably the most advanced
online gaming console, it has one big disadvantage when compared with
Sonyâ€™s PS2 console â€” a lot less users. The PlayStation is the numero uno,
most popular gaming console these days, with tens and tens of millions of
users. This popularity led to a greater number of game software companies
creating a greater number and variety of games for the PS2 console.
As we discuss in the earlier section â€śCan your games get online?,â€ť most exist-
ing games will not work online. As we write this, 15 PS2 games allow online
gaming. So even though there are a lot more PS2 games than Xbox or
GameCube games on the market, you wonâ€™t find a lot more online-capable
Because the PS2 does not come from the factory with an Ethernet port, you
need to spend 40 bucks for the Sony PlayStation 2 Network Adaptor to get
into online gaming. The adaptor plugs into a port on the back of the PS2 and
has an Ethernet port (like the port thatâ€™s already on the back of an Xbox) for
connecting to your wireless home network using a wireless Ethernet bridge.
The network adaptor also has a dialup modem built in, so even if you donâ€™t
have broadband, you can still get into online gaming (unlike Xbox Live, which
is broadband only).
We think that you really need broadband to do online gaming right . . .
otherwise, the play is just too choppy and lagging. If you donâ€™t have broad-
band, we also recommend that you donâ€™t bother connecting your PS2 to your
wireless LAN. Just plug the network adapter in the nearest phone jack. If you
donâ€™t have a phone jack near your PS2, consider getting one of RCAâ€™s wireless
phone jacks (search for this term on www.rca.com to find more information).
Although these arenâ€™t wireless LAN equipment, they are a cheap way (about
$50) to put a phone jack where one isnâ€™t.
Chapter 12: Gaming over a Wireless Home Network
You can find more information about PS2 online gaming at Sonyâ€™s site (www.
us.playstation.com/onlinegaming). As we mention in the previous sec-
tion, the big difference between PS2 and Xbox Live online gaming relates to
who provides the online gaming service itself. With the Xbox, you sign up for
your account with Microsoft, and you can then play any Xbox Live game
using that account. With the PS2, you need to sign up for accounts with the
individual game developers â€” so if you want to be the Duke Blue Devils in
Segaâ€™s NCAA 2K3 Hoops game, you need to sign up for Segaâ€™s online game
hosting service. Luckily, the game manufacturers are not currently charging
for this service, but you might end up having to remember account names
and passwords for multiple services when your game collection grows.
Without a doubt, the Nintendo GameCube is the cutest of the three major
game console systems. Although itâ€™s positively tiny compared with the PS2 â€”
and especially when compared with the huge Xbox â€” itâ€™s still loaded with
powerful computer chips that give you some big gaming fun. And like the
other two consoles, the GameCube can be a part of your wireless LAN, with
just a few additions.
Like the PS2, the GameCube doesnâ€™t have a built-in Ethernet port with which
you can connect the console directly to a wireless Ethernet bridge. So (like
the PS2), you need to buy an adapter â€” a Broadband Network Adapter, to be
precise, which costs about $39 â€” that plugs into the back of the GameCube
and contains an Ethernet port that you can use for hooking the console into
your wireless home network. You can find more details about this network
adapter â€” as well as lots of info about the GameCube itself â€” at Nintendoâ€™s
Web site (www.gamecube.com).
As of this writing, you can play only one GameCube game online â€” Phantasy
Star Online â€” that requires an $8.95 per month subscription and works with
most online services (but not, unfortunately, with the biggest one â€” AOL).
We expect more GameCube online games to become available, but so far,
Like the PS2, the GameCube also has a dialup modem adapter for online
gaming. As we discuss in the â€śPlaying online with PlayStation 2 (PS2)â€ť section
of this chapter, we think that the best way to deal with dialup modem gaming
is to just plug this adapter into a nearby phone jack and not to try to connect
the console to your wireless LAN.
234 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
Console wireless networking equipment
In case we havenâ€™t made it abundantly clear in our discussion so far, we
reiterate: None of the consoles that weâ€™ve discussed comes with any kind of
built-in wireless LAN capabilities, and none of the networking kits or adapters
that you need to buy from the console maker includes wireless LAN equip-
ment. What all these consoles do have, when outfitted for online gaming, is
an Ethernet port. This will undoubtedly change, but for now thatâ€™s it.
And really, thatâ€™s all you need, thanks to the availability of relatively inexpen-
sive wireless Ethernet bridges. The deeper you get into the networking world,
the more likely you are to run into the concept of a bridge, which is simply a
device that connects two segments of a network together. Unlike hubs or
switches or routers or most other network equipment (we talk about a lot of
this stuff back in Chapters 2 and 5), a bridge doesnâ€™t do anything with the
data flowing through it. It basically just passes the data straight through with-
out manipulating it, rerouting it, or even caring what it is. A wireless Ethernet
bridgeâ€™s sole purpose in life, then, is to send data back and forth between two
points. (Not too tough to see where the name came from, huh?)
While weâ€™re discussing these wireless Ethernet bridges in terms of game con-
soles networks in this chapter, theyâ€™re actually quite handy devices that can
be used for a lot of different applications in your wireless LAN. Basically, any
device that has an Ethernet port â€” such as a TiVo or ReplayTV personal
video recorder (PVR), an MP3 server (such as the AudioReQuest), even an
Internet refrigerator (such as Samsungâ€™s Internet Refrigerator) â€” can hook
into your wireless home network using a wireless Ethernet bridge.
Wireless Ethernet bridges are a relatively new phenomenon in the wireless
LAN world â€” which is really saying something considering the fact that wire-
less LANs have been a mainstream technology for only a couple of years. As
we write, only a couple of wireless Ethernet bridges are on the market. We
donâ€™t expect this situation to last â€” our contacts at just about every wireless
networking equipment company that we know tell us that they, too, are work-
ing on their own products in this category.
As we write, you can find two widely available models, which we discuss in
D-Linkâ€™s D-LinkAir DWL-810
Chapter 12: Gaming over a Wireless Home Network
Both of these wireless Ethernet bridges use the common 11 Mbps 802.11b
system. That means that they wonâ€™t work on the faster 802.11a networking
system. They should work on the new 802.11g system but only at the lower
802.11b 11 Mbps speed (which should be fast enough for your gaming
needs!). Also, keep in mind that although 802.11b gear is supposed to work on
802.11g networks, a lot of â€śgâ€ť gear is pretty new on the market and has not
yet undergone extensive interoperability testing.
The great thing about wireless Ethernet bridges â€” besides the fact that they
solve the very real problem of getting non-computer devices onto the wire-
less network â€” is that they are the essence of Plug and Play. You might have
to spend three or four minutes setting up the bridge itself (getting it con-
nected to your wireless network), but you donâ€™t need to do anything special
to your game console besides plug the bridge in. All the game consoles that
we discuss in this chapter (at least when equipped with the appropriate net-
work adapters and software) will â€śseeâ€ť your wireless Ethernet bridge as just a