March 7, 2007 10:37 AM PST

Sony brings it 'Home' for the PS3

SAN FRANCISCO--Sony is finally getting its own virtual reality.

As online virtual worlds like Second Life, and others continue to gain in popularity, Sony on Wednesday unveiled its own version of an immersive 3D social space, known as Home and created exclusively for the PlayStation 3.

At a press briefing in advance of his keynote speech at the Game Developers Conference here Wednesday, Phil Harrison, Sony Computer Entertainment's president of worldwide studios, publicly showed off Home for the first time, explaining how it fits into the PS3 ecosystem and what Sony is calling the "Game 3.0" era.

The service appears to be aimed at giving consumers a new reason to choose the PS3--an especially important move for Sony given that recent market numbers from analyst firm The NPD Group showed the PS3 in fourth place among consoles in January, trailing Nintendo's Wii, its own PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox 360.

Part of the problem for Sony has been PS3 shortages, as well as a price tag--$599 for a top-of-the-line PS3--deemed too steep by many consumers, particularly because of what some see as a lackluster roster of available games.

Essentially, Home is a 3D, avatar-based social environment available for free to users of the PlayStation 3 network. The idea is to give users a way to connect in a multimedia space and interact with the various forms of media available on the PS3.

Home will be a free download. It will go into a large-scale beta in April and will launch publicly this fall.

While Home has some innovative features--most notably the ability to watch high-definition quality video available through the PS3 network--it's strongly reminiscent of virtual worlds like Second Life, only deeply scaled back.

Home participants will be able to meet other members, most likely in a main public area known as the "Central Lobby," and communicate through text, audio or video chatting. They will also be able to pipe in--either in public or private theaters--the latest movies or TV shows available through the PS3 network, as well as their own user-created videos.

Sony 'Home'

Further, users will be able to infinitely customize their avatars. And each member will be given a small (and free) private space, somewhat like an apartment, that he or she can customize per his or her own tastes.

A main selling point of Second Life is that users create nearly all the content, with almost no limits, making for an environment that's almost infinitely extensible. By contrast, Home appears to be a much more controlled space.

Harrison told CNET that while users will be able to design their own clothing and avatars, as well as other content--be it furniture, vehicles or the like--Sony will moderate anything meant for public spaces, most likely to ensure that Home remains a family friendly space. Content meant for private spaces will not be moderated, he added.

But maintaining such control over content creation means devoting large amounts of time and manpower to the vetting process, and that can translate to a significant delay in the approval of content, as well as minimized user creativity.

Still, Sony may not want Home users to have that much control over what they create.

"In Second Life, it's all about user-created content," Harrison said. "We're providing (a lot of content ourselves). You can only do that with a defined platform...We will deliver what users want in an entertaining way."

In addition, Harrison said that despite some obvious similarities, Home is not a Second Life knockoff.

"We've been working on Home for about two-and-a-half years," he said. "So we're absolutely aware of other avatar-based (environments), but we're taking a different approach."

He said users would be able to create some forms of their own content, though he did not specify what kinds. He indicated that, like in Second Life, and other virtual worlds, users would be able to conduct transactions in exchange for some form of payment.

That ability has led, in Second Life and, at least, to robust virtual economies that yield real-world profits.

It's not clear what kind of businesses Home users will be allowed to run, but Harrison did say he could imagine, for example, a user running an interior design business catering to other Home members.

And while it's evident Sony doesn't expect Home to be a major cash cow, there are some potential revenue sources.

Those, Harrison said, would include sales of in-world goods; in-world advertising (Home allows for high-quality, realistic advertising); and business-to-business services like sponsorship opportunities.

For its part, Second Life publisher Linden Lab seemed pleased with Sony's news.

"I think this completely legitimizes our space," said Catherine Smith, Linden Lab's director of marketing. "It's great to see competitors coming in. A couple years ago we were considered crazy" for building a user-created environment. "I think this shows that we're doing the right thing."

At its pre-briefing, Sony also unveiled an upcoming PS3 game, LittleBigPlanet, from game studio Media Molecule. The game lets players enjoy a great deal of control over creating game levels, and then playing them.

LittleBigPlanet has some elements of Electronic Arts' much-anticipated game, Spore, in that players can essentially create the universe in which they play and then watch it evolve.

See more CNET content tagged:
Second Life, virtual worlds, Sony Corp., space, Sony Playstation


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Two Words
Microsoft BOB.
Posted by -fjtorres- (226 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You obviously didn't read the article.
I'm no Sony supporter, and I probably won't get a PS3 anyway, but even I could tell that despite the name, it's more of a send-up of Second-Life and than anything else, ESPECIALLY Microsoft Bob, which has nothing to do with this concept...
Posted by DraconumPB (229 comments )
Link Flag
Sounds stupid
Why can't Sony just focus on making the game console? They would probably sell more and at a lower cost.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The PS3 Online is going to be the Sims. Talk about insult and injury...
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh well...
I doubt that 'infinite customization' includes nonhuman avatars (read: furries). I wonder if I would actually buy a PS3 if that were the case?

And secondlife.... it's too slow and clunky. A fast, nice-looking alternative would be awesome. Meh. I highly doubt that it's going to be nearly as customizable as SL though.
Posted by DraconumPB (229 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TOTAL FAILURE. I picked up GRAW2 today, launch day for it and the new Sony off road game.

I asked the guy at gamestop how well the PS3 game was selling.....he said you got to have a PS3 to want to buy one and no one is buying the PS3's.

They had BIG signs in the store PS3's IN STOCK $ thanks
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bias - I Don't Like This Article
I don't like this article. It reads as though the author has a bias against sony and is not willing to consider their new development against other consoles realistically. This is Cool, as an owner of the three. PS3 does everything (except games?) better than any console to date.
Posted by disaster.Rock (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You are right
Cnet, and all of the video game press sites are all biased against sony especially g4tv if you have ever watched their shows or went on their website!
Posted by psppssony (4 comments )
Link Flag
This is Revolutionary
I think this is going to be the next killer app for the ps3 and is going to make people realize that ps3 is the better choice of all the next gen systems. I like sony's way of being for the consumer , unlike microsoft they do not use recycled materials on their game consoles. My 360 I bought near launch had the overheating problem and I had to pay $150 to get it fixed. Also Microsoft would have you pay for this amazing newtwork breakthrough called home. I like sony's way of staying free of charge and not ripping their customers off like Microsoft for their poor quality game consoles, OS's , and all of their other things they nickle and dime you on.

Posted by psppssony (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good Grief...
Your fanboy preaching makes me want to puke. All you seem to know how to do to try and back up your statements is to try and trash anything that isn't Sony. Sony is notorious for being extremely overpriced, and in case you haven't noticed, their quality has diminished greatly. Microsoft having poor quality game consoles? I've owned both Xbox's and I had both the original PS and PS2, and I never had a problem with any system. All were initial launch. Maybe you don't know how to treat yousr stuff well. Or at least anything that doesn't have the "Sony" name pasted on it. Maybe you should paste a Sony logo on your 360 and you'll treat it a little better...
Posted by badmf222 (13 comments )
Link Flag
Did they watch either of these?
'Home' isn't technicaly a game so much as it's Sony's attempt at trumping Microsoft Live for the 360. It definatly is an interesting aproch to this type of online comunity, and I can sort of see why one may compare it to second life. That being said I can't see any corolation between Little Big Planet and Spore. If they were comparing Spore to Flow, then I could see a corilation, but Little big planet is nothing like either of these games.
Posted by extirpator (129 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Little Big Planet
For people who have not taken a look at the videos of this game, it's crazy. The open ended physics and multi player interaction in it is awsome. I highly recomend reading the info on the following link, and watching the videos. I laughed when Phill gets "disciplined."

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by extirpator (129 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Drop the weekly Second Life Articles
Surely there must be something else to write about other than second life every week. Dont believe me? Search the archives.

Posted by kieranmullen (1070 comments )
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But you know its not a knockoff its even better........
Posted by play7 (926 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Some part of HOME are even better then Second Life!
Have you seen the graphics on this thing? Its WOW! As LL Second Life drops farther and father into death. Sony might start taking members from Second Life! One thing is the same the support for both are crap!

As I seen the action the poses, movements, and over all playing is greatly better. And best yet You don`t need a 500.00 Graphic card or a CPU every so offen to keep up with the geeks!
Posted by play7 (926 comments )
Link Flag
offering free stuff
Posted by spicktus (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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