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    Playstation Home Is Where The Heart Is
    Monday, 25 August 2008
    I'll be stepping in this week while Fanning the Flames takes a week off. I’m going to talk about something Sony love reminding us of in regards to the Playstation 3, potential. Home’s potential is massive. Some wonder what benefit it might hold for gaming, others might think it is a novelty. We’ll only really find out what Home will do when it is finally released but for the moment, we can speculate.

    What Home does provide is a platform for games to seamlessly integrate themselves into the Playstation experience. We’ve already seen early indications of how Motorstorm: Pacific Rift will work in tandem with Home and it’s nothing mind blowing. It is basically used as a virtual lobby. More potential was seen with Warhawk, with the use of pre-match war rooms for discussing stratagem. Yet again, not amazing but it does appear to at least compliment the game. Overall it lacks imagination on Sony’s part but I doubt that is really the limit of their vision when it comes to Home. I would be surprised if Sony weren't keeping more functionality under wraps, but again, only time will tell.

    Another way games work with Home is through offering extra content, from turning Resistance’s levels into 'The Alternate Imperial War Museum' to being able to play a specially made arcade game, for example in the Uncharted hub. We can see the ability to effortlessly offer extra content through this platform. Considering how interactive the medium of games is it is a shame to see bonus content relegated to promotional 'limited edition' packs and the like, which is something Home could rectify.

    I’ve mentioned a few known examples so lets casts our minds over to more mainstream casual games. What might we expect from Sony’s fairly diverse and undeniably popular casual titles? These could provide an opportunity to hook the less avid gamers and tune them into Home. Imagine it…

    Deep breath,

    Tonight I'm gonna have myself a real good time…

    As the song kicks off the crowd start cheering. With their applause, a real time ratings system, the player grows in confidence. No longer is the faithful SingStar community restricted to 30-second highlights, live performances, live open mic nights become a reality. If you don’t like the idea of singing in front of a bunch of strangers just book a private room and invite your friends. You could be standing at the front of a crowded room, maybe with the Playstation Eye streaming a live feed of you onto a wall behind your avatar, belting Queen out – Maybe this is what Sony want Home to be.

    Don't stop me now I'm having such a good time, I'm having a ball.

    Another potentially very exciting area is the part smaller applications could play in Home. Take the newly shown EyePet. Personally I think its implementation of the Playstation Eye is very impressive, but when it comes down to it, EyePet is just a virtual pet and not even a portable one at that. This is where a problem arises, when exactly are you going to decide to play with your EyePet over a PSN game or what ever game you have in the machine? Home integration with the EyePet could help with this problem. You load up Home, preparing to cause some online carnage in Burnout, but just before you leave the house your EyePet, yes wearing a fez and a little red waistcoat, runs up to you begging for attention. Suddenly your interaction through the Playstation Eye with the tiny creature takes on another level; there is now more incentive to play EyePet. Through EyePet the player enters the monkey-cat-thing’s space, Home allows the pet to interact with you on an equal spacing. How far this level of integration goes is up to Sony to decide. Could I take my pet for a walk or have him perch on my shoulder like I captain my own pirate ship? Would it interact with other pets it came across, maybe even having its own pet friends list? If not, why not?

    The key for Home is its integration. If games become an invisible gateway to this central hub, so that players simply find themselves flying between Home and a game without hesitation, then Sony will be onto something. If it becomes that easy then what is not to say that the SingStar and Buzz players of the world won't get pulled into Home? It is inevitable that comparisons are going to be made with Second Life but Home already has a massive advantage over it. First of all, as Home comes as a free download for the PS3 the user base will easily outstrip that of Second Life which, as of March 2008, has approximately 13 million accounts – as to how many are active accounts is anyone’s guess, but I doubt it is anything close to that number. Second, Home has a fairly defined infrastructure. There is no need to build a house or get a virtual job of any kind but the customisation is there for those who want it, from what your avatar looks like to the interior to your house. Finally, Home has a purpose; it is there predominantly for games but also for other media. Depending on how far Sony pushes the integration of Home everyone could be using it to varying degrees, either dipping in to pre-game lobbies, or exploring the different game hubs to swinging by the theater with friends to catch the latest movie.

    The ball is on Sony’s side of the court. Home could become essential or it could fade away into some kind of sideshow. There is a lot of potential, not to mention a myriad of 'if's, and although we don't have long to wait, Home will take time to develop. This could be living.

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    posted by Daft @ 11:30  
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