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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sony's PlayStation Home

Since the PS3 was back up and running just in time for PlayStation Home's open beta, I gave it a go last night.

The beta has been greeted with largely a ho and a hum on the net, and there's quite a few good reasons why. Mostly, Home is an interesting idea in search of a real need. It's a solution to a problem you didn't really have. There's a lot of effort here to get very little done.

For instance, you can go to the theatre. In this virtual theatre, you can see the same Twilight trailer we've been watching for months now. And that's pretty much it for all your trouble for downloading the zone and navigating around a bunch of other users to get a decent view.

Or you could go shopping in the mall, except that most of the stores are pretty bare and honestly spending pretty much any amount of money on virtual pants isn't likely to excite me. Here is where the comparison to Second Life really breaks down. Second Life is an experiment in user generated content. Home's Mall is more of an experiment in making the electronic equivalent of those impulse items at the grocery store.

Home also features a handful of games, none of which were really terribly compelling to even try. Honestly, it's not that these are a bad addition to the environment, but at the moment they don't have much to offer to your already existing library of games. Mostly? It's something to do if you get stuck downloading conent.

My biggest disappointment was with Sully's Bar. As an Uncharted fan, I wanted to see the game oriented environments would be like. It was, sadly, a crowded clumsy experience with people shouting out the passwords to the secret rooms.

Home is something of a looker, graphically speaking, it's just that there's not much actually there. It's vapid.

The real question is simple. How much of this void is because this is a beta and how much is simply design? Home has some potential, but until the content gets drummed up to the point where we can see that potential being tapped, I don't see myself logging in just to watch movie trailers I've already seen.

What would I like to see?

- Better promotional areas. This is going to need to include the idea of some kind of instanced zones where I can explore content without being hounded by dozens of other players all trying to open the same door.

- Online media events. Get panel discussions going with developers, synchronized webcasts with live events, etc. It will be interesting see how this dovetails with Qore (if it all).

- Much, much better free content. The trophy room might be a good example of this. But even more, why not say, the Obsidian Suit from Dead Space? I already have the DLC for it, why can't I shove it in the corner of my living room?

So no, I'm not really thrilled about Home right now - it's been a long time coming and there is very little to show for it. I don't expect to get really thrilled about it, well, ever, but I do think Sony could make it useful. Hopefully Sony won't let the beta linger for long.

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