Games journalist Steve Boxer recently interviewed three Sony executives on the influence of Web 2.0 on gaming, a product the company is developing called SingStar, and its new virtual environment, Home. What caught my eye, and got me thinking, was the admonition that Home will pull in a wider audience to the PS3.
Here’s what Peter Edward, the director of the PlayStation Home Platform Group, had to say:
Let’s be honest, most of the purchasers of PS3s are classic 18 to 34 (year-old) males right now, but there are lots of other family members and friends who might see [core gamers] using Home and think: ‘That looks like fun. I’m not normally the sort of person who would use a PS3, but let’s have a go with it.’
I’ve been skeptical of statements like this, no matter if they’re coming from Sony about its PS3, Nintendo about its Wii, or Microsoft about its Xbox. I’ve wondered if the game/Internet strategies of these companies will really pull in the casual or non-gamer.
After watching family dynamics around the Wii — when a 4-year-old consistently beats teen and non-gaming adult family members in bowling — and reading about Sony’s plans for Home, I’m beginning to think it’s possible.
Sony’s PS3 platform is diverse enough to allow hard core gamers to play their games and move around in the interactive social world known as Home. Here they can explore the environment with like-minded PS3 owners, hang out and socialize with friends, and organize multi-player games.
At the same time, the hard-core gamers can visit Home with family members and casual gamers and not feel like their sacred ground is being invaded by newbies.
Parents can also feel comfortable knowing that their kids are in the family-friendly environment of Home and not hanging out in bars with prostitutes like they might do in Second Life.
When we started work on this, Second Life didn’t exist. Our motivation, originally, right from the word go, was that we fed up with going into online games for five seconds before dying, and we thought there must be a better, more congenial way of leading an online existence. That was what prompted us to start developing what has turned out to be PlayStation Home. So, it’s certainly not Second Life.
I think that’s something that, conversely, they (Second Life) are a bit proud of – the fact that it’s a bit of a Wild West environment. And if that floats your boat, it can be very appealing. But it’s the obvious thing to do, to make comparisons between Home and Second Life, and it’s understandable that people would do that, as they are quite similar, superficially. But Home has been in development for quite a long time, and its roots came from online gaming rather than social networking, and the social networking aspect has grown from that. But Second Life has hardware issues, as obviously it’s PC-based and has to cater to the lowest common denominator, and it’s not an easy thing to get up and running, whereas Home has been deliberately created to be something that anyone can get into.
And Macdonald again:
And the other main thing is that, apart from the whole Wild West scenario, Second Life is kind of a solitary activity, although you’re in an environment where there are other people – but where you are, it’s a solitary activity. Whereas with the PlayStation 3, Home is under the TV, and you’re there, probably with other people, enjoying the experience as a whole. Although there’s only one of you walking around on-screen, it’s more of a family activity.
That’s what I’m wondering about. Will Home attract more people to the PS3, and combined can they be a family activity?