"Sony Corp.’s much delayed virtual community for owners of its PlayStation 3 game console will start worldwide Thursday, but it’s unlikely to attract many newcomers to the machine, company officials said. The free-of-charge PlayStation Home service is mainly meant to make gaming more fun for people who already own the PS3, they said. Owners download Home software and connect their PS3 to broadband to create three-dimensional digital images that represent themselves called “avatars,” and communicate with the avatars of other PS3 owners.

The figures wander around virtual lawns, bowling alleys, arcades and homes in the PS3, but the central activity is playing games and becoming friends with other PlayStation 3 game fans, according to Sony. Sony had the idea for Home before such virtual worlds or “metaverse” in cyberspace became popular, he said. The service, offered in eight languages, will start in Japan, Europe, U.S. and other areas where PlayStation 3 is available. The service will be updated with new games, licensing partners and events including a New Year’s countdown ceremony, Sony said."