Chicago (IL) – Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 have been dominating game console headlines lately and there was not really a whole lot positive to say about the Playstation 3 lately. Sony’s game console desperately needs new reasons why people should choose the platform – and the Home social gaming and entertainment network and may be one of them. After a long delay, Home went live earlier today as an Open Beta.PS3 owners can access Home by clicking the Home icon in the PlayStation Network column of the XMB. Sony recommends that users should attach a USB keyboard or Bluetooth headset before they enter Home and they can start meeting other PS3 gamers right away. That said, Home is still in a beta phase and Sony stressed that while previous testers already invested “a tremendous amount of participation, input, care, and passion”, the current Home is just the beginning.
“Home will grow, change, and evolve very quickly – and it is all based on your feedback.” The company told its users. And Home may have to grow quickly indeed, given the community and features Microsoft has developed already.
Sony describes Home as a 3D social gaming community that allows PS3 users to meet, chat, plan, and launch 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.