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Home to become a game portal – but does anyone care?

Personally, I’ve never considered PlayStation Home to be all that successful. Perhaps this was because I was one of those players that downloaded it, made a few silly gestures, then logged out and never bothered loading it up again. Home felt superfluous to me – an unnessecary showboating novelty that didn’t deliver on any the promises that had been made of it.

But hey, that’s just me, and according to Sony (statistics best taken with a pinch of salt) it’s doing well indeed. According to Sony, Home has been downloaded and activated 19 million times since launch, with users spending an average of 70 minutes per session online. Note that Sony hasn’t mentioned active users – any number of those 19 million could have been just like me, checking out the ‘service’ just because it’s there and it’s free. At GDC Home boss Jack Buser gave a rather abstract barometer of Home’s success, saying people using it actively are the more hardcore user base, which doesn’t really tell us anything. At all. We did learn plenty of other fancy figures, like over 8000 virtual items having been released, and 120 studios are working on content for Home around the world. But no solid figures on active users.

Still, Home’s success is undeniable – it’s somehow generating profit and attracting customers. The next step for Sony, announced at GDC, is that the company intends to upgrade Home from a rubbish social network into a full-on mulitplayer game platform with the release of version 1.5 – an upgrade designed specifically with game developers in mind. The upgrade will focus on improvements to the graphics engine, the core physics engine, and real-time multiplayer gaming. Sony has said that this will allow developers to create far better first person shooter and racing multiplayer games within Home, the revamped physics engine providing developers with more control over physics elements for better gameplay experiences.

We’ve seen two games developed specifically for PlayStation Home thus far – the alternate reality game Xi, and the in-Home tank MMO Sodium One, which was frankly rubbish. The first game to be released alonside version 1.5 of Home this spring will be Sodium Two, developer by Lockwood Publishing. Like the majority of games to be released on Home in the coming year it will likely be beased on a freemium model, with virtual items generating profit.

To be honest, I can’t see such a new initiative bringing in any new gamers outside of the ‘hardcore user base’ Home is currently enjoying. I certainly don’t feel compelled to check out Home again, or spend money on a new outfit for my avatar. The upgrades made to the core gameplay mechanics of Move will have to be significant indeed to get drag gamers away from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or Uncharted 3. If Sony just releases minigames and ModNation-esque racers then Home will likely stay as it’s always been – a short, quick distraction, which most players will shun after a quick peek through the door.

Wow, it really took me a long time to get around to my point there. I guess I had more to say about Home than I thought.




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  • Dean

    I agree. just can’t be bothered with home and from time to time, its so slow i think it’s crashed my PS3. A significant improvement has to be made before i even consider going back to it

  • Matt

    I’m an active user — I was skeptical but I enjoy it. You forgot to mention the shmup mmo Novus Prime, and the third-person spy shooter mmo Conspiracy which will probably benefit from being worked on using the new engine.