Playstation Home beta to launch tomorrow

  • Chicago (IL) - Sony today announced that Playstation Home will finally launch as an open beta tomorrow. Designed as a virtual world and social networking platform for Playstation 3 owners, it  has been delayed several times since Sony first announced the project in 2007. Basically a virtual community, Home lets users “live” in a virtual world, create their own apartment and personalize their living space with items like furniture, clothing and gadgets. Gamers can communicate via VoIP, play mini-games, attend events and explore game-related spaces.

    Sony describes Home as a 3D social gaming community that allows PS3 users to meet, chat, plan, and launch into games together. "You can create your own custom avatar, decorate your personal apartment, play mini-games, shop, watch videos, attend special events, and much more," the company said. Players can meet at the Central Plaza and travel in a virtual world that includes bowling alleys, arcades, virtual public areas and “private” homes. Similar to Microsoft's overhauled Xbox Live service unveiled on November 19, gamers can communicate via voice or IM and team up for online gameplay.
    Sony said the service is primarily aimed at networking and playing games with online friends, but conceded it may not attract first time game console buyers. A built-in tutorial gets newbies started with controls; help menus in the Menu Pad provide further assistance. Since the closed beta has been running for a while, Home is already populated by real-life players. In-game videos showcase thePS3s  graphics engine that renders a highly detailed, lush 3D environment with smooth animations.

    Sony expects at lot of interest in premium content like movies, music and games-themed spaces. For example, gamers can watch videos or game trailers on their virtual plasma TVs, stream and vote for select songs, decorate backgrounds of a virtual PS3 with images from real games, etc. To get access premium content, Sony went to big brands like energy drink company Red Bull, fashion house Diesel and furniture designer Ligne Roset. Diesel and Ligne Roset will provide branded clothing and furniture shops for Home users.

    The actual game content will vary by region. Initially, U.S. residents will get game spaces for Far Cry 2, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Guitar Hero and Warhawk Resistance where they can meet, chat about these games, get help or obtain game items.

    Only the Far Cry 2 game space will be available when Home launches in PAL territories like Europe, but Sony said other game spaces will be added "soon," including SOCOM and Motorstrom, in addition to Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Warhawk Resistance. EA, Atari, Ubisoft, Sega and Midway all jumped on the bandwagon to bring their game spaces to European Home users. Launch content for Japan includes the Namco Museum and lounges for the Siren and Everybody's Golf games.

    Sony said that Home is not designed to compete with other virtual worlds like Second Life as its primary focus is to create a social gaming community that will connect players and promote premium game titles for the console. Sony promised to update the environment on a regular basis with new games, additional licensing partners and live events such as a New Year countdown and Christmas. The company will also leverage parties, tournaments and events to keep the community active. Sony said some events will be announced on the Home forums, while others will "just happen," hoping this will stimulate users to log in more often.