I have to wonder if Sony are barking up the wrong tree with “Home” for the Playstation 3. For those of you who have not heard of this product it’s a free to use virtual environment where Playstation users may create, upgrade and decorate a virtual “home” Interact with other users in spaces designed by game publishers and other users, play a range of mini games and purchase items and new houses through micro-payments.
If you have heard of the much hyped Second Life it might sound familiar. On paper it almost looks like a good idea, micro-payments have proved hugely successful for Apple (Think iTunes and the iPhone App store) But can it work for the PS3? Well I have to say I’m not convinced. I eagerly loaded up the public beta in December and soon found myself asking “Why would I use this when everything it does can be done so much faster without it?” Take Voip, if I currently need to chat to my friends online I send them an invite from the Playstation’s XMB (Desktop) the whole process takes seconds.
If I choose to do that in “home” I have to load up the Home application and log in (possibly 30+ seconds, but then I have to locate my friends and physically (…umm virtually) walk to them to start up a conversation. And if they are not in the same space I also have to load up the space they are in… all in all it could take minutes! A recent update means you may only Voip in personal spaces or by making a “call” to a friend… ok, yes that is quicker – but not more so than using the XMB. Similarly if I want to find out about a new game why would I load up home when I can just use the PS3’s handy internet search tool. And other than learning about new PS3 games or watching Movie trailers there is very little to do in home. The mini games soon get tiresome and you begin to wish you could run around, play leapfrog, ride a bicycle, bark like a dog and roll over wagging your tail… strip naked… anything other than re-decorate your apartment… again!
Six months on and little has changed in Home, I wander around the Piazza and listen in on the same conversations as I did in December “Why can’t I shoot people,” “Is this it?”, “I’m tired of Chess” etc, etc.
Maybe I’m a cynic, I was never a fan of Second Life and Home seems to be more of the same but with less features but prettier graphics. Yes I might enjoy decorating my apartment and adding screenshots and videos of my gaming prowess to virtual picture frames and LCD TV’s and maybe I’d even go and buy a plate glass trophy cabinet for all of my awards – but will anyone want to come and look at them?
Last December Google killed “Lively” their version of an virtual interactive world and last November Reuters pulled the plug on their virtual Second Life news-desk, “about as fun as watching paint dry.” is how one ex-reporter describes his time there, I know the feeling! Home must be costing Sony a tidy little packet… and yet while it’s development sluggishly carries on calls for an improved XMB continue. Barking up the wrong Tree? Now if only you could do that in Home!