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Sony Hits Home

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) is taking the PlayStation 3 console online in a big way, promising a cavalcade of community-based features to come, including a virtual world for players.

Phil Harrison, president of worldwide studios for Sony Computer Entertainment, made the announcement and demonstrated the virtual world, called Home, in his keynote speech at the Game Developers Conference today. His speech was well received by the techy audience, although details had been leaked earlier in the week. (See Sony Goes 3.0.)

It's all part of what Sony is calling Game 3.0, a vague moniker similar to Web 2.0 that's meant to denote personalization and user creativity.

Similar to Second Life, Home lets player avatars wander a 3D virtual world and chat with each other, either via typing or voice. PS3 owners can meet in a common lounge to play simple games like pool and bowling. Each player also gets a customizable apartment and a Hall of Fame room to stash trophies from various PS3 games. [Ed. note: No player ever gets laid.]

The games link into all this, of course. Special clothes and furniture can be garnered in-game and used in Home. (Free clothes and furniture, as well as for-pay premium versions, will be available as well.) And the whole world is plastered with ads for games, in the form of posters or hi-res video clips.

Objects can be placed pretty much anywhere in Home, and they obey realistic physics. "You can put a big pile of furniture in the corner of the room if you wish," Harrison said. To demonstrate, he had his avatar picking up a Sony high-definition TV screen and throwing it down a flight of stairs, where it bounced and slowly rolled to a rest at the bottom. (He called it a reliability demo; the TV kept on playing throughout.)

The "large-scale" beta trial for Home starts in February, and Sony is expecting a full launch in the fall, Harrison said.

Harrison didn't get into how much money Sony is investing in Home, or how large a staff is devoted to it.

Nor did he fully articulate the reasons for doing this. While it's cool looking and ties into hip Web 2.0 ideas, Home could also be Sony's bid to regain status. The Nintendo of America Inc. Wii dominated Christmas sales, and the Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Xbox has so far trumped PS3 when it comes to online offerings and popularity. Microsoft this week boasted of having 6 million online users swapping 2 million text and voice messages per day.

Sony also gave a lengthy demo of one game that espouses the Game 3.0 ethic. Called Little Big Planet, it's a cross between a Mario game and The Incredible Machine (if anyone remembers that one), where players can work together to solve puzzles involving ramps, seesaws, and various movable obstacles.

The "community" part is that LBP lets players build their own levels via simple controller-clicked menus. Levels are then uploaded to the PlayStation Network, where Sony will let other users play and rank them.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:15:03 PM
re: Sony Hits Home Nearly two years later, Home is just "a glorified chat room," BusinessWeek says:

http://tinyurl.com/77ywf2
somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 4:15:01 PM
re: Sony Hits Home I have to agree at this point. My girlfriend started playing with this last week while I was playing Warhammer Online.

She is relatively new to all things internet and gaming - although she loves fighting games. While she had fun creating her character after that she said all there was to do was buy clothes for her character in a store (microtransactions), dance, and get followed around and bothered by all of the male toons. She said it was mildly entertaining at first, but there was no reason to log into it again.
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:12:59 PM
re: Sony Hits Home I never like to admit I actually enjoyed a demo, but Little Big Planet looks pretty darn cool. Reminds me of Lode Runner, which let you build your own levels. It would have been cool to share those with other folks.
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:12:57 PM
re: Sony Hits Home btw, a link to the guys who developed Little Big Planet:

http://mediamolecule.com/
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