PlayStation Home: Sony's open house
This fall, Sony will throw open the doors to PlayStation Home, an ambitious project to turn its online game network for PS3 console players into a lifelike 3-D virtual world where people can cruise around with their avatars.
Sony has mentioned the project in past years, but had not released details. Last week, the company held an open house to give reporters an early tour. The software gives players the ability to create highly customized, realistic avatars. Each player also will be given a waterfront condo with a walk-in closet where they can try on various accessories purchased at Home's virtual mall.
But the real action takes place in the world's public spaces, where players mingle, make friends, play games and watch videos in a virtual theater. Think Second Life meets ...
... the Sony Metreon in San Francisco.
"Home is a 3-D representation of our PlayStation community," said Jack Buser, director of PlayStation Home.
Like a house that hasn't had its appliances installed, PlayStation Home has a few bare spots and unresolved issues. Sony hasn't said, for instance, when the virtual world will open for business or whether it will sell movies and music on the platform. Right now, the public theaters are showing only video game trailers. But they could just as easily sell movie tickets. The virtual malls could sell music downloads. But Sony declined to say whether it planned t to take such an approach.
"The technology is there to do all that," Buser said. "But we didn't want to make those decisions up-front. What we do depends on the demands of the community. We first want to see how our community will use it."
To some extent, Sony is trying to one-up Microsoft, whose Xbox Live network boasts 14 million players. PlayStation Network, which has 12 million registered users, is catching up fast. And it's betting Home will allow it to pull ahead.
"It's going to be a huge console differentiator for us," Buser said.
-- Alex Pham
PlayStation Home images from Sony