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home sweet home

Posted on March 8, 2007As most of you have probably read by now, the Playstation 3 will be getting an Xbox Live-equivalent "Home" system, in which players create a virtual world (a la The Sims) to walk around, talk, and decorate houses. I'm a big fan of virtual "worlds," and when the other people in that "world" are all real then it's just that much cooler. But I'm also pretty disapproving of Sony in general, however...this is free. And that right there makes it far more interesting in my book.

Players can create a custom avatar bearing their resemblance and then have trophy rooms and even play minigames in the virtual world. Eventually, they should be able to stop by virtual movie theaters to watch downloadable movies. They can share pictures on their walls and music around their virtual homes. I won't lie...this interests me. The only thing holding me back from Xbox Live is the monthly fee, and this waives that.

But...I think the novelty will wear off. Functionally, Xbox Live will provide the same abilities through a menu-based system rather than an expansive virtual world. It's entirely possible that this system will also have a menu-based component so you don't have to walk over to your friend's virtual apartment just to play a multiplayer game with him. Still, there are issues inherent with this kind of system. There will be plenty of abuse, to be sure. And it will probably lag, at least to an extent, when it reaches the point of expansion for which Sony aspires.

The whole system just seems too ambitious for my taste. I played Second Life for an hour or so before its clumsiness and lack of polish underwhelmed (and frustrated) me enough to force an uninstall. I think most people are going to find it more than what they need for simple multiplayer matchmaking, and the demographic which will prove "addicted" to the system (probably those already hooked on Second Life, or merely MySpace) is most likely a small one. It is yet to be seen how Sony manages this; they've bungled their online systems in the past, but if they make some clever design decisions and players really take to this, making the community a viable one, it could prove to be some serious competition for Microsoft.

Even still, I bet all of the AV equipment in "Playstation Home" requires the use of the craptacular Memory Stick, rather than the ubiquitous (and inexpensive) Secure Digital memory format. And good luck finding a virtual HD-DVD player for your high-def movies.

In the meantime, I'll just stick with Battlefield.

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