When Home first opened to the public late last year, the public reaction was skeptical and negative. There really wasn't much to do beyond customizing your character and walking around. It seemed like nothing more than a glorified chat system.
As the excitement around Second Life collapsed and Google cancelled their 3D avatar project "Lively", people questioned whether there really was a need or purpose to these 3D avatar systems at all.
Now, Home's core feature set has improved, there are more spaces to explore, much more elaborate mini-games, and Xi is arguably the first piece of "destination content" that is really good enough to pull people to the system.
However, Home is still very much an unfinished work in progress with most of its potential unrealized, but it's fleshed out enough where you can play it and easily understand where they are headed.
Here are the top seven reasons that PlayStation Home will eventually be a success:
Disney World Epcot Style Entertainment Advertising
PlayStation Home aims to host lots of corporate sponsored virtual spaces like Disney World's Epcot Center hosts corporate sponsored pavilions. TV and print ads are becoming less and less effective, yet companies still need to show their products to consumers.
What's nice is that consumers actually enjoy going to Epcot and they enjoy visiting the Red Bull space. The companies can build their brands and the consumers get a free (or at least subsidized) form of leisurely entertainment.
Even though I rarely chat with people in Home and I don't make friends or anything, it's still very engaging just to be immersed in a crowd of avatars that are all personalized and controlled by real people.
When I go to a live music/comedy/theater show, I generally don't chat with total strangers, but I do get a lot of atmosphere and pick up a lot of non-verbal non-explicit communication from the crowd as a whole. Many people play World of Warcraft as a single-player game without really getting into chatting or guilding, yet the background presence of the crowd is clearly a big draw.
Xi is a ton of fun. The game itself is very clever and unique, but what's interesting is that it's clearly more fun as a part of Home than it would have been as a separate stand-alone game.
The Crowd Immersion mentioned above is one big advantage, but another is that this game isn't launched from Home, it's IN Home. It feels more realistic and immersive when I use the same software and the same personalized avatar, and can just walk over to this game.
Beyond Xi, I've heard the Siren space in Japan features a haunted house and is a must see. There is clearly a lot of options to develop this.
Universal PS3 Lobby System
Home will be a meeting place that people meet before and between games, choose games to play, etc.
Game publishers traditionally buy promotional services from retail stores to promote their products: they pay extra to have their products featured on prime shelf space, for employees to recite scripted promotional deals, etc.
Also, even consumers who do all their shopping through the web often like to browse retail stores. Apple's retail stores are known for piquing users interest at the retail store and then the users make the actual purchase on the web.
The industry is slowly moving away from retail and an avatar system is a great way to fill a lot of the services that retail has traditionally provided.
Flagship Store Presence
Sony recently closed the one and only official PlayStation retail store at Metreon Mall in San Francisco. Why pay money to maintain a retail store like that and put efforts into special events when only a relatively small number of local residents can see it? It's much more effective to put that effort into a world-wide service like Home.
Big Publicity Shows
Companies spend huge amounts of money building stages and setting up elaborate shows like E3, yet they are generally only accessible to press and possibly a small number of fans.
With an avatar-system, they can make similar big glitzy events with all the crowds and spectacle and make them available directly to their entire user base.
I bet this hasn't happened yet due to technical issues. It would be a disaster if they tried to hold a virtual E3 conference and the servers keeled over due to high server traffic.
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