Sony will launch the beta version of PlayStation Home, its long-awaited PS 3 online service, beginning tomorrow.
PS Home would appear to be Sony's long-overdue riposte to Microsoft's popular Xbox Live service, which has been building a strong user base since the days of the original Xbox. Home takes a decidely different approach to its user interface, however. The service will function as a virtual 3D world along the lines of Second Life. Users will have individual avatars as well as personal spaces called "apartments" which can be decorated.
A company press release describes Home as:
...a ground-breaking 3D social gaming community available on PS3 that allows users to interact, communicate and share gaming experiences... Within PlayStation Home, users can create and customize their own unique avatars and explore the virtual community in real time where they can communicate freely through text or voice chat.
PlayStation Home users will not only be able to enjoy variety of entertainment content such as mini-games, videos and special events along with their friends, but will also be able to create their own community by using the “Club2” feature to create clubs with other PlayStation Home users who share the same interests. PlayStation Home also allows groups of users to launch directly into their favourite online games together from PlayStation Home.
VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi, who participated in Home's closed beta, writes:
Home is different from Second Life and World of Warcraft. Unlike those fully-built worlds, Home isn’t really a world. It’s more like a series of virtual spaces. If you want to visit your own personal apartment, where no one can visit without your permission, then you teleport there. If you want to go to the central plaza, you teleport there. Same goes for the bowling alley or the bar from the game Uncharted. You’re free to decorate your home as you wish. If you want to listen to music, you can walk up to a jukebox...
In the movie theater, you can go into a room and see what’s playing. You can actually watch that movie with your avatar in a social setting, making comments about it that others in the theater can see. That turns movie-watching into an online social experience. There is a profanity filter, and Home will be compliant with the PS 3’s own parental controls.
GP: The Home launch is a critical step for Sony and the PS3. Let's hope that they get it right. However, as a PS3 owner who tries to stay optimistic (Sony doesn't make this easy), I am concerned about the PS Home press release (I'm looking at the SCEE version), which devotes several paragraphs to the marketing of virtual crap for avatars. For example:
Thanks to Diesel, avatars can look great from the start with Diesel offering the latest men’s and women’s designer avatar clothing, with items ranging from free of charge to €1.50...
PlayStation®Home gives everyone their own apartment to spend time in and entertain friends - who will now be able relax on exclusive Ligne Roset furniture. At the virtual store, people will be able to choose from a selection of the most popular Ligne Roset designs...
A selection of virtual Watchmen merchandise e.g. T-Shirts with the smiley face logo, Doomsday clocks and character statues, will also be available in the New Year...
XBL got it right by making an easy-to-use, pleasant gaming environment. Sony really needs to focus on its core gamers with PS Home. Everything else is just a distraction.