Sony Launches PS3 "Home" For The Holidays
Sony announced today that it is launching an open beta test of a new virtual world it has developed for the PlayStation 3 called "Home".
PS3 owners will be able to download and check out the new service starting tomorrow. Home is free to Web-connected owners of the game console, though users may opt to spend money to spiff up their avatars and virtual apartments.
Jack Buser, director of the Home service at Sony, predicted that people will spend their time in Home talking about everything from what books they're reading to what high-definition TV they're thinking about buying. Game publishers, he said, are already developing virtual spaces they'll be able to use as venues to promote their wares and try to build a new sort of community around their products.
"This changes the meaning of online play," he said. "Now, the people on your friends list will be people you know and know fairly well."
"The PS3 community is one that has already demonstrated that they participate in this sort of thing," he said.
Home was announced at a game developer trade show in San Jose a couple of years ago. When Sony first unveiled it, gamer response was very positive, though that enthusiasm has waned a bit as the service hit a delay or two.
I got a brief early look at Home earlier this week -- and there wasn't much there there as yet. You start out designing an avatar in a spiffy studio apartment overlooking a harbor. After that, the next destination was a central plaza where a few avatars were hanging out and making some small talk. There's a virtual bowling alley, but all the alleys were occupied, so I didn't give that a try. The doors of a virtual shopping mall were open, but none of the stores were online. Inside a movie theater, a few patrons watched a loop of a commercial for a Navy Seals game from Sony.
I'm hoping that the offerings in Home get a little more interesting as Sony opens the service up this week.
Buser would not discus the size of the Home development team, how many years the service has been in development or how many PS3 users will be able to log onto one the virtual space at a time.
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