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Nov 06 2009
By: IPumpMyGun Uncharted Territory 1992 posts
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(IGN ARTICLE ) Broken Home: An Examination

128 replies 624 views Edited Nov 6, 2009

 http://ps3.ign.com/articles/104/1042780p2.html

 

Australia, November 5, 2009 -

 

IGN examines the pratfalls and potential of Sony's social experiment

 

 

A noble failure? A work in progress? Or is it something much bigger than we anticipated? Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's London Studio had a grand vision: to create a unique social portal that goes a large step beyond Miis and Avatars, bordering on something like Second Life. Of course, with lofty ambition comes user expectation and sometimes a painful reality check.

Home is not the all-empowering success that Sony must have envisioned. The buzz isn't there; it's an underutilized space with lots of potential and an equal amount of problems that prevent that potential from being realized. In this feature, IGN examines what went wrong with PlayStation Home and what Sony could do to fix the virtual space.



Content


Second Life led the charge, Habbo's hotel rooms made it accessible and monetized it and Home took the best from both worlds – but something went wrong. While the user's 'HomeSpace' – their blank-canvas apartment space – is a great initiative in theory, the reality is ...boring. There's not much to do; it's about as complex as a Barbie playset, only without a big-breasted blonde and her chiselled husband.

Without a reason to be in there, except to funnel money into virtual furniture, then why bother? Sony, it seems, has reached the same conclusion; and offers a solution that's still in the pipeline – virtual pets. Come 'Home' to a virtual dog or cat of your own.

 

 

All those boats and nowhere to go.


Of course, we have to wonder if sticking to the mundane to this degree is really a good move. Virtual pets have been done to death; why not loosen things up a little? How about talking with Square Enix for the integration of Chocobos or Moogles? How about a pet dragon or giant man-devouring Moon Wyrm? Turn owning a pet into a head-to-head battling experience; make it compatible with Eye of Judgement cards or any myriad of similar monster-battling games that Sony can license.

Looking beyond this, we'd like to see a little more free content flowing down the pipeline, such as furniture giveaways (beyond the opportunity to win them through the minigames), extra content and perhaps even take-'Home' versions of Chess and Checkers to play inside the HomeSpace. A few freebie pieces of content to brighten up the HomeSpace might actually open users up to the idea of virtual interior design in Home. ...That's the theory anyway.

The hub world itself also needs a serious injection of content on your doorstep. Outside of your HomeSpace, stepping onto your balcony, we're teased with a sapphire yacht mooring... that we can't access. Why not open up a seaside plaza where we can hop into a boat and do a quick race with friends? Or stroll onboard a cruise ship for shuttle**bleep** and virtual mojitos? The inclusion of purchasable 'Clubs' is an interesting touch, but even then, their relevance and function is limited.

Functionality


Making Home an accessible product was always a key priority to London Studio; the fewer barriers between users and the end product, the better. And yet, between constant updates, load screens, queues, clunky menus and clumsy movement, Home needs a rethink.

One sticking point in Home's functionality involves the constant downloading of updates to display fresh in-Home advertising. Without downloading these content updates, you can't enter separate districts. While not enormous in size, there's no option to background download. It feels, honestly like half of our play time in Home is spent waiting in lines to play games or downloading direct-marketing material – and we have to wonder if it's really worth it.

 

PlayStation Home's hub area is still devoid of purpose and interest - but could it be any different?


There are few shortcuts in Home. That's a problem if you're in a hurry, because the process of transitioning from your HomeSpace into the world and into the bowling alley or Store is protracted and unnecessary. What Home needs to do is stop trying to imitate life and instead provide a better, more useable experience for players looking to quick-hop from place to place.

It's admirable that Home's plaza space is gorgeous in a 'display home village' kind of way, but it's a facade that lacks interactivity, too. In a way, it's akin to Disneyland; a hub area that allows you transition from ride to ride – but man, if you could get rid of that legwork between those rides, wouldn't you opt to?

Purpose


Home's 'purpose' is as clouded as its content and direction. Superficially a "free" service for all PS3 owners, the reality is that Home is driven by paid advertising revenue and micro-transactions. What each default Home user receives is the same acerbic 'base-model' package that can be invested in. By simply walking through the virtual plaza and viewing the latest trailers or rotating billboards, however, you're generating money through impressions for Sony. That's fine – but what you're getting in return might not encourage repeat visits.

Why is this? Well, consumers are becoming more and more aware of the marketing and advertising process, and as such, are starting to switch off to being directly advertised to. Home integrates this advertising into the experience so that while you're in line waiting to play Chess, you're also becoming a participant in the advertising process. The exchange is, you get to play a game and Sony gets to impress an advertisement on you. Is that value for the consumer? Well, that depends: how much do you like board games and streaming movie trailers?

 

Ultimately, Home exists to serve advertising - but that shouldn't mean it compromises on its original vision.


The real purpose of Home, as we'd like to see it, is as a valid alternative to the XMB (Xross Media Bar) – the PS3's default menu system and Sony's cross-platform menu of choice these days. By adding the same functionality to your HomeSpace as the XMB, such as giving each user a big-screen TV that streams movies, or a virtual PS3 that launches games and multiplayer sessions, we suddenly have a renewed reason for spending time in Home. The idea of an alternative to XMB is appealing – so long as it's demonstrably a smooth and useable experience that sits on-par with the current experience.


 

Relevance


In the rush to connect with the cashed-up and discerning 13-25 year old market, many brands are catering content and style to this age bracket. Home rarely shies away from this effort. In the effort to appear relevant, character creation really positions itself to cater towards the fashion trends of the age bracket, providing styles that look like they were pulled from a preppy clothing catalogue.

Of course, the real question is whether aping this kind of culture is helping Home's cause or hindering it. A lot of Sony's public PlayStation branding has until recently been focussed on making the PS3 into a must-own luxury item, much like the recently launched PSPgo. Both items' marketing efforts tend towards the 'cool factor', positioning the brand as trendy and young, but also luxurious.

 

Home will ultimately succeed or fail in the eyes of gamers through the content and experience it provides, as well as the upfront cost.


Home, we believe, also falls into this category of Sony product; a glossy experience that compliments the brand identity – for good and ill. Why not tap into the real core of Home's current users? Surely there must be internal data on the breakdowns of age, sex, location and gaming habits; why not offer, beyond a handful of game-themed apartment styles, a greater gaming emphasis within this environment? After all, people are purchasing their PS3s to be entertained – through games and film –and yet Home seems to see that as some sort of offshoot of the greater experience: that is, standing around in hip threads and dancing to ska.


 

Overall


The solution, as we see it, is to re-establish exactly what Home is – because right now, it has no defined image. It's a box; a blank thing with no real direction or purpose other than to monetize and iterate.

The Home experience, as it stands now, remains in this quasi-permanent state of Beta; a netherworld devoid of the finalities that games provide, and unable to decide whether it's a social platform, a menu, a games destination or an advertising portal.

Sony might argue it's all of these things. Users might argue that it's really not – and perhaps such diversity is preventing Home from performing any of its core functions well enough to be compelling.

Message Edited by IPumpMyGun on 11-05-2009 09:11 PM
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Gaming Beast
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Re: (IGN ARTICLE ) Broken Home: An Examination

Nov 6, 2009
FINALLY some other parties are taking notice of Home's pitfalls. You sir earned mah kudos for posting this, and I hope many more articles like this start rubbing some dirt in the Home team's face to get on the ball.

I don't budlist-add on forums, and blank PSN requests get ignored!
Missing Rewards -over a year old, still never fixed! 3-4 months worth of items still MIA.
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Uncharted Territory
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Re: (IGN ARTICLE ) Broken Home: An Examination

Nov 6, 2009

I see great potential in HOME. It really comes down to the developers of home to sit down and ask what we want to make  PSN HOME our home. It's still in beta for a reason to work out the glitches, improvements and to add all the goodies. The article best describes the overall situation.  A little too critical? Maybe.....Maybe not......But it's nothing to be rushed. As they say..."Rome wasn't built in a day..."

 

 

Bare in mind I did not type this article it is from IGN.

Message Edited by IPumpMyGun on 11-05-2009 09:09 PM
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Gaming Beast
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Re: (IGN ARTICLE ) Broken Home: An Examination

Nov 6, 2009

I know how ya feel man. I'm still clinging to the hope that after a YEAR of open beta they'd finally keep the promises they made at conception of Home(trophies, tv, stereo, a HOUSE for avatars) will finally come to pass.

 

But look at this forum, no petitions allowed, no poll options in the forum, and events like for this Halloween bombed epically.

 

Where's the way to get feedback? The Mall. Where people have no problem spending tons of cash on trinkets of no functional value, not realising 'more money spent' = 'more things to buy must be made', and nobody slows down to give Sony a clue to fix their product and give it the shine it should truely have, instead of grabbing for our wallets like a greddy kid on x-mas. :/


I don't budlist-add on forums, and blank PSN requests get ignored!
Missing Rewards -over a year old, still never fixed! 3-4 months worth of items still MIA.
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Uncharted Territory
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Re: (IGN ARTICLE ) Broken Home: An Examination

Nov 6, 2009
Well, I can understand why they don't allow petitions. It doesn't look organized or professional. Where it would be easier for a "dev" to as in a post what will be fixed and what is expected to come, rather then a petition that will never get answered.
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Lombax Warrior
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Re: (IGN ARTICLE ) Broken Home: An Examination

Nov 6, 2009
Kudos to he who pumps his gun (lol) and IGN too!!
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Uncharted Territory
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Re: (IGN ARTICLE ) Broken Home: An Examination

Nov 6, 2009
We have to see the picture from both sides aswell. There side aswell from ours. Thanks for the kudos  Smiley Tongue
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Treasure Hunter
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Re: (IGN ARTICLE ) Broken Home: An Examination

Nov 6, 2009

Crazy-88 wrote:
FINALLY some other parties are taking notice of Home's pitfalls. You sir earned mah kudos for posting this, and I hope many more articles like this start rubbing some dirt in the Home team's face to get on the ball.

 

It's nothing new. The IGN team has always noticed the flaws in Home.....and that's a good thing.

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Gaming Beast
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Re: (IGN ARTICLE ) Broken Home: An Examination

Nov 6, 2009

QCVic wrote:

Crazy-88 wrote:
FINALLY some other parties are taking notice of Home's pitfalls. You sir earned mah kudos for posting this, and I hope many more articles like this start rubbing some dirt in the Home team's face to get on the ball.

 

It's nothing new. The IGN team has always noticed the flaws in Home.....and that's a good thing.


 

Amen good sir. But the more IGN points it out, the better. I really hope more major gaming sources will too... We deserve less rip-off prices and more free things, I mean it's advertising, yet Americans are without free Coke stuff and we only get a crummy apartment, while the City Loft that was free in the closed beta is now priced with all the rest. -.-


I don't budlist-add on forums, and blank PSN requests get ignored!
Missing Rewards -over a year old, still never fixed! 3-4 months worth of items still MIA.
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Uncharted Territory
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Re: (IGN ARTICLE ) Broken Home: An Examination

Nov 6, 2009
Canada is affected aswell up here . I never bad mouth the dev's. When I have time, I always put forward friendly constructive criticism.
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