PlayStation Home has had an incredibly rocky start and while Sony has progressed leaps and bounds over the first beta, there are consistent problems that continue to plague the online space to this day. First and foremost, it is still reasonable to assume that Sony isn’t exactly sure what it wants Home to be. It was first touted as a space for online social interactivity and on some level this has been realized. However, if you ask most gamers if they ever genuinely use the service, despite it being free, and many will say that they rarely use it, if ever. Additionally, Sony has touted the marketability of Home in the sense that it can generate financial revenue via micro-transactions in the form of clothing for a player’s avatar as well as furniture for said avatar’s virtual house and advertising space for companies. Ultimately it boils down to how much gamers use the space. If something is fun, more often that not, it will sift to the top of the pile and be noticed and even with a few hidden jewels Home still hasn’t demonstrated the overall viability necessary to suck gamers into the virtual world.
Admittedly, when Home was first put on display it struck me as a very cheap knockoff of Second Life. It doesn’t have the overall usability or communication that Second Life possesses and hasn’t shown any ability to capitalize on what made Home so famous. While casual gaming has come into its own over the past several years on the PC and has thereby expanded to the major home consoles, it is that which seems to set Home so far apart. A digital game space of sorts where avatars can interact with each other isn’t a new concept. World of Warcraft and Second Life are the two largest worlds that can be considered the epitome of online social interactivity. On the other hand, Home allows for the most simplistic of social interactivity. Yes, it is a doorway of sorts to online play as games can be accessed from the space, but it ultimately ends up feeling like a long-winded environmental menu. The problem breaks down to Sony’s inability to decide what exactly they want Home to be. It was initially said to be an MMO-like space that would enable users to do just about anything, with anyone who owned a PS3 at any given time. It would streamline the PS3 experience and no user would ever want to leave. When it was finally released in beta to an anxious public, it was vastly underwhelming, leaving many curious as to whether or not this is what the final build would appear to be. The current beta is proving even more disappointing in the minds of many gamers because it isn’t an MMO, it isn’t streamlined; and it really isn’t anything worth visiting when there are actual games to play on the system.
Home truly was a victim of its own ambition as it tried to shoot for the stars; it has thus far not even made it out of the atmosphere. Sony had very big plans for their premier online hub for social interaction with people paying to buy new clothes for their avatar, fill their homes with furniture to compliment their trophies and get people to interact there. But on my last visit to Home, it seemed like a very dismal, if not soulless place that lacked a significant amount of real personality or imagination. I’m very much aware that Sony has done their best to keep their online free, however, if Home is the result, then what has the company really gained as far as standing out in the online market? Moreover, speaking as a gamer, I’ve never been interested in purchasing clothes for a digital equivalent of me. Never have, never will, no matter what system I’m playing on regardless of how cool or awesome it might be. Also, buying furniture for a digital house doesn’t strike me as all that fun. Sure, it’s fun in The Sims, but that’s because you’ve already paid the premium required to purchase the package that offers you the ability to put that SimCouch in that SimHouse for that Sim. My avatar does not need me to buy them a pretty piece of furniture to plant their soft, digital bottom on and if they don’t like it, they can rob the digital Home bank for money to purchase the furniture.
Besides, I’m not going to hang out on my console in a digital space when I could be playing a game with the same people who might be hanging out with me. Warhawk and Socom are both exceptional online titles, not to mention Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Resistance 1 and 2 as well as Killzone 2. Why would I want to hang out in a digital space that looks like the areas I’ll find in these games when I can actually be playing them single or multiplayer and enjoying the real thing as opposed to some sort of digital doppelganger? I’m not saying that the few people I have truly been able to interact with via Home have lacked personality, because if the John Gabriel Internet Dickwad Theory has taught us anything, it’s that online interaction will never be boring as long as anonymity exists. What I am saying however is that I shouldn’t have to rely on the statistical possibility that the people I’ll meet online will not be complete idiots when it comes to Home. The game space needs to be as fun and interesting as the people or no one will want to spend their time there. The PlayStation 3 is a hardcore piece of gaming hardware, it isn’t a casual toy. It is meant to play fun games for people who actually consider gaming to require a minute sort of skill set, not people who want to flair their arms around like idiots or scream and sing into the microphone at the first available chance that they have a captive audience.
Sony, I will grant that Home has come a very, very long way since it was first introduced to the gaming public. But, it still strikes me as a disappointment that people don’t feel is worth the effort. I’m not calling you out because I have no faith Sony, I’m calling you out because you should either decide that Home is worth your time and put some genuine effort into it, such as maybe charging and offering expanded content for those who subscribe or you should let it die and do what you did in the previous two console generations and focus on giving the gaming faithful some of the greatest games we can still imagine to this day. But please don’t jump back and forth on the topic, it’ll only lead to the ultimate stagnation of the product and will end up collecting proverbial dust on the PlayStation Network until the PlayStation 4 is announced side-by-side to the new and improved Home. But give me and all of the PlayStation 3 owners out there some incentive to use the product, sell us on the fact that it can make our experience all the more fulfilling and leave us with the idea that maybe our time wasn’t wasted by wandering around and checking a few things out. After all, this isn’t the network adapter we had with the PS2, now many of us have broadband and virtually limitless digital possibilities. I guarantee that if you can prove the space is a lot more fun than what I saw in my last several visits, I’ll be the first to leave my game disc in the slot and check out Home again for hours on end, just to explore and see what I’ll find. But if it isn’t fun, no one is going to use it and after all the time Sony has invested in it, it’d be a shame to see all that effort go to waste.