The console wars have been a raging battle for years now, with each major competitor keeping pace with their opponents. However, with the release of the latest generation consoles, Sony has begun to fall behind Microsoft and Nintendo with its coveted PlayStation 3, VentureBeat reports.
The console itself is more powerful than the others, and it can play Blu Ray, but the bottom line is that the price tag is far too high. Furthermore, the PS3 focuses more on the traditional, hardcore gamer rather than encompass a broader audience like Nintendo’s Wii, which is a mistake Sony seems to be looking to correct.
In a last ditch effort to meet the competition head on, Sony has spent the last 18 months developing its “Home” virtual world for the PlayStation Network (the Sony version of Xbox Live). Based on the staggering success of current social networks and virtual worlds, Sony want to give players their own virtual network on top of the games they play. However, unlike their Nintendo and Microsoft counterparts (Miis and the new Xbox Experience), Home will go beyond just avatars and encompass an entire online, virtual space with the beautiful and realistic look that PS3 is known for.
The space is made specifically for gamers, and it is Sony’s hope that Home will be engaging enough that they will take time away from playing their normal games for it. Considering that the chief demographic on the PS3 are core gamers, it will have to be, but since the Home is going to be free for all PS3 owners, there is a strong possibility it will (at least at first).
As the current numbers stand, there are approximately 13 million registered PS3 and PlayStation Portable users registered on the PlayStation Network; all of which will be integrated with Home. As one might expect, it is also a pretty heft piece of software in that it is not only a virtual space, but one that remembers everything pertaining to the geography, thus if Y building is placed in X location, it will always be in X location.
Of course, this gives the idea of a virtual “world” and it needs to be clarified that Home is not that. A world would allow you to walk to the bar from your apartment, but Sony has designed the network to be a series of virtual spaces, allowing users to basically teleport from place to place. By doing so, they have allowed a means to create multiple renditions of each space so that no single one is overcrowded.
Home is pretty extensive too. Not only do you have your own apartment that only those you permit can visit, but you can decorate it any way you want, which past games have taught us, is a rather successful feature. However, there is more to it than just this: Players can visit a bowling alley to bowl with friends, use the arcade to play classic games, or play a rather realistic round of pool. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, you can head to a virtual movie theater and watch whatever’s playing, or as expected, you can always just hang out and talk with anyone within your current space using either a Bluetooth headset or universal serial bus keyboard. If talking gets a little dull, you can always start up one of your multiplayer favorites right then and there.
The network is still in closed beta at the moment, but it is expected to move into open beta rather soon. This will go a long way in testing the product further as any social network requires multitudes of users to survive, and by allowing more people into the test, Sony will be able to get a better idea of how Home is going to do once it is live. Nonetheless, once it is live, don’t expect it to stay the way it is on release. A number of developers and publishers are working on creating and adding their own spaces to Home, such as Electronic Art’s “EA Sports Fan” space. In addition to that, Sony fully intends to adjust the network based on the user’s feedback: Jack Buser, director of Home for the US game division, describes home as a “living, breathing space.”
[Images via VentureBeat]