GDC 07: PS3 phoning Home this fall

[UPDATE] Sony unveils its upcoming 3D-avatar-based "communication, community, and commerce" online service; video of full Sony keynote inside.

SAN FRANCISCO--Imagine a three-dimensional avatar-based socializing sim like Second Life. Now cross it with the online gaming and matchmaking features of Xbox Live. Leaven with dynamic streaming in-game advertising a la Massive, throw in some Pogo.com-esque casual gaming, and add a dash of Sneak King-like merchandising. Heat, stir, let cool, serve, and--voila--you've got Home, the new online service for the PlayStation 3.

Following a flurry of rumors, Sony officially opened Home's doors at a secretive, invite-only event on Tuesday evening at a nightclub near the base of the Bay Bridge. Following the requisite signing of nondisclosure agreements and plying of attendees with high-end nibbles and libations, Sony Worldwide Studios president Phil Harrison took the stage to give a preview of the keynote speech he would deliver the following morning at the 2007 Game Developers Conference.

Using a PowerPoint-like slide show via the PS3's cross-media bar, Harrison outlined the concept behind Home, which he called "Game 3.0." As the executive himself freely admitted, the concept is a riff on Web 2.0, the term applied to the new, more interactive and customer-focused services and sites like Pandora, YouTube, and Flickr.

All the aforementioned sites embrace the concept of what Harrison calls "emergence entertainment," allowing users to upload their own content. When it launches this fall, Home will offer similar functionality to PlayStation 3 users. However, instead of a stripped-down interface, the service will feature a detailed three-dimensional environment with graphics and physics on par with many next-gen games.

"No, I said part it on the left, you fool!"

Harrison first showed off Home's slick look by showing "the lobby," one of the public forums where PlayStation 3 users can meet and greet each other. Looking like a sleek building out of pre-Cylon-nuclear-holocaust Battlestar Galactica, the lobby was filled with avatars sporting hip hairdos and euro-chic wardrobes. The avatars can communicate on several levels: simple emotion animations (waving, dancing) like those in World of Warcraft, text chat via keyboard or predictive text, voice chat, and video chat.

Just like a real bowling alley, minus the foot funk.

Besides the lobby, Home will offer a host of other public spaces with a variety of activities. To demonstrate, Harrison had a coworker jaw with a colleague in Europe, then saunter through a fully rendered entertainment complex with bowling lanes, pool tables, and realistic old-school arcade machines like those in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The machines will offer visitors casual games, with a Choplifter-esque mockup being used for illustration purposes.

Another public space Harrison visited was a movie theater, with posters of and trailers for real-world films. Visitors to the virtual cinema can watch the previews playing on monitors in the lobby or enter actual theaters, potentially to watch full-length films streamed on screens.

Unfortunately for Thad, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has been canceled for quite some time.

Harrison also showed how a Home user could watch video in his virtual abode. Each Home user will receive a basic apartment free of charge and can invite their friends over to their abodes to socialize in a more intimate setting. Harrison said Home apartments can also be used as smaller-scale lobbies for close-knit gaming groups, and even touted them as potential clan headquarters. Users will also be able to host virtual parties in apartments where they can DJ using music files streaming from their PS3 hard drives.

The riffraff were gently ushered to the back patio, out of the VIPs' sight.

Home apartments can be customized with both abstract patterns and game themes; heart wallpaper and Resistance: Fall of Man-branded posters were offered up to the briefing audience as examples. Said virtual abodes can also be filled with designer furniture that can be moved, thrown, or otherwise dislodged with realistic physics. Users can also put picture frames on the wall, to which they can upload any image from their PS3 hard drive. To show the ease of this process, Harrison snapped a shot of the crowd and uploaded it into a frame on the apartment wall within seconds.

Well, this lobby seems tailor-made for a major publisher of golf, soccer, boxing, and baskeball games. (Cough, cough.)

Home users can also deck out their apartment with a variety of electronics--all Sony-branded, of course. Not only will said electronics look like their real-world counterparts, they will also function like them. To illustrate this fact, Harrison selected a 42-inch Bravia LCD TV and hung it on the wall. He then selected the trailer for Casino Royale and began to stream it to the television. As a comic afterthought, the demonstration avatar then threw the television down his apartment's stairs. The set didn't break, but it bounced realistically, and the trailer's video continued to play without any skipping.

Unlike a real theater, no one will talk on their cell phone during the climax of Children of Men here.

Throughout his presentation, Harrison made a point of saying that the Home function would be a free download which would be accessible from the PS3's XMB. However, the executive left no question that Sony has come up with plenty of revenue streams for Home. The most basic of these are things PS3 users will pay for: Harrison said there will be high-end--and possibly branded--items of clothing which users can purchase for their avatars. He also showed a "luxury" apartment which will have several floors and a lakeside view--and heavily hinted it would not be gratis.

No, you won't throw out your back moving this way.

But while premium content is a no-brainer, Harrison also showed off other, more ingenious ways Sony will glean coin from Home. First of these is in-game advertising. All public spaces and lobbies in Home will have large, dynamically generated virtual video monitors, banners, and billboards hawking various products.

Harrison also showed off a mockup of a whole constellation of public home areas that can be branded to a third-party publisher--or any other company willing to pay the price. He showed off a concept Home area that resembled a cross between a carnival and the EA Sports booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. There, visiting avatars could hit balls at a golf-game-branded driving range, sink three-pointers at hoop stations slathered in basketball game logos, or take out their virtual frustrations on boxing-game-themed foam dummies. Presumably all these features will be made available to publishers--for a price.

Lastly, all Home's menus will be accessed via a virtual PlayStation Portable. The demonstrations Harrison used were very reminiscent of the PDA in Doom 3, with avatars pulling reproductions of the handhelds out of their pockets, sustaining the illusion of a virtual world. However, the population of said realm won't be known until later this year. Currently in a limited closed beta, Home will enter a wider beta in April, with launch set for this fall in the US and Europe.

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Discussion

1563 comments
sr_darkzodiac
sr_darkzodiac

Would have been better if they never released it. P.O.S

megamaster32
megamaster32

Looking forward to this good thing I bought a ps3 and im really excited about this

lilpots86
lilpots86

this isnt a dig at the idea of home, because on paper it sounds very interesting. However i am and always will b an avid gamer, i own both the ps3 and the xbox but just find that with the xbox i can just get straight on see which of my friends r online then just jump straight into the action, if i want downloadable content i can do that without walking my avatar said way down the road to the cinema. everything i need in a nice user friendly interface and its so built up now how can sony even begin to compete. i brought my ps3 solely 4 the bluray but there is no denying the top quality games they have and will have but same for the xbox.

Thisisfufd
Thisisfufd

I cant wait my PS3 is waiting. (In which it is better than 360)

Amir29
Amir29

This looks like an excellent integration of everything we look for in an entertainment system. The most impressive fact in this article (to me) is the capability to stream video. That will be quite a feat, if they can pull it off. However, I am curious if you can not only DJ, but also share your media with other users within home. I have yet to find an article that mentions media sharing. If anyone DOES stumble on any mention of it, please let me know.

SamuriChamploo
SamuriChamploo

Lol I wonder when it REALLY will come out. I just wanna know!

tjoeb123
tjoeb123

great - it's WINTER now, and they say FALL.....when the hell is it coming out? (i don't actually have a ps3, but this is something I've been watching)

whantwhant
whantwhant

is it true there only going to let 50.000 people in the open beta trials

whantwhant
whantwhant

dose any body now when we get to try it in november

godofgamers7711
godofgamers7711

cant wait for it its going to be great and u can pile stuff up and drop stuff down the stairs LOL

Spectre77
Spectre77

Everyone steer clear of jjllww1979, he might try to meat you.

Karaam
Karaam

as long as ppl can find it fun to play, its going to be good, thats what should mater right now in games, not just the xclusivity , theres the fun factor as well.

jjllww1979
jjllww1979

duke1993 is dumb we wont waste are money on it its free like the internet free not like xbox money money money and plus we can meat people and then c whos the best at gaming who no,s u mite meat the love ov ur life on it then it would cost u money lol

fartys
fartys

Cant wait 4 Home, sounds really cool and different!

creepster32000
creepster32000

its not just the titles people go for its also that ps3 consistantly keeps bringing us something new and stylish an new ways to play the game what im saying is MG was the first stealth game socom was just awesome with the controls an style of the online who cares whats out for it right now at least ps3 takes there time on there games an makes them without the huge bugs are the actuall crappiness of the half-ass made game 360 isnt about gamers its about how high bill gates can get his pile of money before he goes to hell

creepster32000
creepster32000

The reason why people are choosing what system is better is because whoever wins this race between 360 an PS3 will take on the worlds gameing demands an what game designers they will work there hardest for i personally hope 360 falls out american made but sony has been in it alot longer plus i bought the 80gb an i dont wanna waste my money on 2nd place 360 system may be cheaper but the ps3 works harder especially for the future an that will just be another accesory for the 360 to sell at least ps3 was very well built an took that extra time to perfect it the best they could unlike making it halfass an selling what ps3 has as accessories

foxjackass
foxjackass

This is somtin for that PS3 owners can use to just talk to people like on XBOX Live, But this is way cooler than XBox. Plus this has a lot more stuff you can do on than XBox. Such as the Movie tavern or the bowlin alley, And lets not forget you can get your own virtual space. So to all of you who say this is stupid... UP YOURS!

lockstock
lockstock

it's ok for sites to exist where users can interact as in the real world, play games, visit areas and so on but as soon as Sony introduce the same idea (but apparently on a much grander scale) everybody slags it off, well screw 'em, we like it and that's what counts!

powerframe8
powerframe8

To those who think Home is a Wii/Mii rip off... your right. But honestly. Home looks SO much better than Nintendos stupid Mii program. The Miis are all cute and n64-graphic like, but they can't really do anything. Home looks great. And hopefully it end up being amazing. And knowing Sony, it will be. Unless it flops like the Eyetoy.

duke1993
duke1993

this is stuipid... who wants to waste money on buying virtual crap when they could be buying grand theft auto 4 and mgs4

alexandreps3
alexandreps3

when will this be avaiable for downloading. can i down thhe beta version this month, how?

abdulgamemaster
abdulgamemaster

ha i own a ps3 and 360 get over your selfs yeah so guess what i love xbox live.

USAF37th
USAF37th

Ok this is retarded. Everyone is a fanboy of their console and just can't get over it. its ridiculous. Why can't people actually talk about how cool every system is. i own a ps3, and i love it. but all my friends have 360s, there awesome too. I have never played a wii before, but it looks awesome. I think all the consoles are amazing, and i like to see what all of them are capable of. Everybody sits here and complains about every little thing possible about other consoles. Look, Gears of War is an awesome game, and i cant wait till Halo 3. but I cant wait to play the new zelda game either. and motor storm and resistance are awesome games as well. i use to have xbox live when i had an xbox and it was awesome. and i will agree that the new XBL is also awesome. probably better than the playstation store. but i think home will be something new for everybody. yes it does have elements from other games and consoles but who cares. i only care if its fun or not. that's what everybody should be thinking about these consoles.

robrismo038406
robrismo038406

HOME IS GOING TO BE SOMETHING COOL TO TRY OUT YOU GO SONY!!

robrismo038406
robrismo038406

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

robbieboyd11078
robbieboyd11078

well ive got an xbox and am getting a ps3 but it will be a toughie when deciding what games to buy on which console e.g final fantasy but in the long run... xbox360 + ps3 + me + very happy!

bihboy69
bihboy69

god i wish these comments had a quote button! Okay this turned into a console war so here I go... And what? Microsoft is original? The company was built off of taking other people's ideas. Halo has not done anything new. Gears of War has not done anything new. So there goes xbox. The Wii is a great system. Its cheap and fun. Good for Nintendo, I knew they would pull through, they proved once again why they are the longest lasting company in the biz. The Wii did not invent this style of experience. The Sims did, and it was expanded on by Second Life. So don't throw around such stupid coments. The Wii's innovation is its gameplay. Thats Nintendo's claim to fame. Games are being shared. Not going xbox exclusive daniel665. I would explain the marketing techniques being employed but I seriously doubt you have a degree in economics, so I wont bother. Am I a bit bias for Sony, yes, but everyone is bias for their system. The real truth of the console war is this. The Wii is fun and innovative and Nintendo will probabley make a ton of money. The extent of the 360s abilties are going to be tested with Halo 3. After that must consider making a higher system and screwing over half their fans. The PS3s game inventory won't take off until next Christmas, but then they will roll on all cylinders until the end of the console war. Sheer hardware power wins out. SO TRUE plus MGS4 saves the day along with super side kick FF13!!! what's that? MGS4 and FF13 would like to call in an overkill strike? bring on KILLZONE2!!!

awesomeanimal
awesomeanimal

People keep saying that Home is a rip off of the Wii thing. I think that's crap. Things like this take time to make. I'm pretty sure that it took longer than the wii. This is just a prototytpe and is just superb. By the time it is out in November it will surely have been improved. Even if it was a rip off, I'd say it perfected the whole thing. Playing games, seeing actual banners, having your own place, having your own hall of fame, seeing movie trailers, and socializing with others is a lot better than whatever the Wii has. It also has better graphics that are more realistic which I prefer. It could have had more realistic avatars but went with miis (which many people prefer). They say that the Miis are cute which is partially true but in the end I say that realistic is best. Either way, Home rocks

ShweyGamer
ShweyGamer

so many people are not relizing how many new franchises will show this year and next. THER IS SO MUCH MORE THEN KILLZONE AND METAL GEAR AND FINAL FANTASY. dont ask me to specify. and dont be so sensitive you amazing nerds

MajorGamer531
MajorGamer531

Okay this turned into a console war so here I go... And what? Microsoft is original? The company was built off of taking other people's ideas. Halo has not done anything new. Gears of War has not done anything new. So there goes xbox. The Wii is a great system. Its cheap and fun. Good for Nintendo, I knew they would pull through, they proved once again why they are the longest lasting company in the biz. The Wii did not invent this style of experience. The Sims did, and it was expanded on by Second Life. So don't throw around such stupid coments. The Wii's innovation is its gameplay. Thats Nintendo's claim to fame. Games are being shared. Not going xbox exclusive daniel665. I would explain the marketing techniques being employed but I seriously doubt you have a degree in economics, so I wont bother. Am I a bit bias for Sony, yes, but everyone is bias for their system. The real truth of the console war is this. The Wii is fun and innovative and Nintendo will probabley make a ton of money. The extent of the 360s abilties are going to be tested with Halo 3. After that must consider making a higher system and screwing over half their fans. The PS3s game inventory won't take off until next Christmas, but then they will roll on all cylinders until the end of the console war. Sheer hardware power wins out.

nihuna
nihuna

wow! the features of the nintendo wii, with the added benefits of a double price tag, and shameless plugs! looks great! seriously, it looks ok, but its all been done before. I wouldn't mind getting a ps3, but they need a little more original innovation, rather than ripping off and bastardizing other innovations.(I think I've aroused the wrath of a million sony fanboys! lets watch the spectatcle!)

bihboy69
bihboy69

and MGS4 saves the day along with super side kick FF13!!! what's that? MGS4 and FF13 would like to call in an overkill strike? bring on KILLZONE2!!!

daniel665
daniel665

DEVIL MAY CRY IS COMING TO THE 360! http://uk.xbox360.ign.com/articles/774/774093p1.html PS3 is gonna need home as it is the only thing that 360 dosen't already have or has taken from SONY. it is also necessary as ps3 owners are not gonna have that many games to play on and im guessing this state of affairs will get worse as the xbox and wii begin to outsell it even more. I think ps3 owners are gonna have start making there own games up in home like who can wear the most bucket hats at one time. LOL.

Chavagnatze
Chavagnatze

If it is all run right, Home has the potential to roll XBox Live and smoke it. This is so much more interesting but we all know that People who don't have fast connections will miss all the glitz and glammer. If Home is lacking anything Harrison emphasized, people will eat it alive and it will either fail or have a stigma around it.

lionelchu
lionelchu

i think home is just something to do when your all bored of you games and have nothing else to do. i really don't think it would be a reason to get a game console. but hey... i'm ganna love it

mankap1984
mankap1984

Please do not say that sony copies mii or live because something like this does not happen in any case. Its not bad to adopt the positive characteristics form your competitors and to make a new service that has no any simiral.

SaiyamanGohan
SaiyamanGohan

This certanly does seem interesting... But it seems kind of like a cheap knock off of the Wii's Mii feature of creating your own avatar. The Wii is selling like crazy and Sony's Panicing, trying to get in on some of the interactive craze. Nothing against Sony, I own a PS3 and hope for it's success... But this is kind of a 'last resort' thing, showing people: "Look, why play the Wii and get up and moving, when you can sit down and go to your friends virtual house instead of getting up and going to their actual house! We found a new way you can be lazy! Isn't it great? ... Please buy a PS3! PLEASE!!" Honestly...

K1LLSWITCH
K1LLSWITCH

RE: cyroos195

I know it's free. Thats was the point that I was making in my post.

MajorGamer531
MajorGamer531

The biggest key here is the fact that Home is free. The price difference between the systems will pay itself off with not only the ps3's higher running value as a durable system, but also the online experience you receive for free on the PS3 which costs you money monthly on the 360. You cannot judge a system by its release titles, so people please quit trying. How many of you remember the PS2's release titles? Maybe a couple games offhand if they were a couple of your favorites, but I doubt you could list me the line up.

cyroos195
cyroos195

K1LLSWITCH We aren't paying for it. It's free.

K1LLSWITCH
K1LLSWITCH

Compared to Xbox Live, and what it has to offer, "Home" will be the one to beat. Live is a good service but I feel that it's not worth paying $50 a year for as there is lag and glitching something of which is seen on the PS2's online service. So the question is why are we paying for it? Plus, instead of unlocking text based achievements that is found on Xbox Live user's will be able to view what they've unlocked on "Home". Sony is definantly pushing the online community further with their new online service and at the cost of nothing, as it should be as we're already paying for the games and the downloadable content offered for the games. So why charge us further just to play online? Unless your a company in this industry only looking to make a quick buck. After my year of XBL expires I should by then have a PS3 which will give me a good reason not to re-subscribe to Live.

Seriously, Microsoft should take notes to what Sony is doing.

Uri555
Uri555

"Home" definatlly has potentail. Just like Xbox Live, which I dont think is taking full potential of what it could be. "Home" is a gimmick, one that could be really great, but lets face it. If the games arent up to par, no matter how good the gimmicks are the system/game wont last. So yes "Home" does sound amazing and really will be, if executed properly.

robrismo038406
robrismo038406

men cant wait to get ps3 i really dont care about $600 d i just whant to have fun