Speaking during a presentation titled “Game 3.0: Developing and Creating for the 3rd Age of Videogames,” Sony’s Phil Harrison delivered one of GDC’s hotly anticipated keynotes this morning, and as expected it delivered more than a few punches. Unlike the company’s lukewarm presentation from the most recent E3 event, this keynote featured enough to get even the most jaded enthusiast at least a little excited about Sony’s plans for the PlayStation 3, particularly with regards to its online prospects care of what has been coined simply “Home.”
Touting the potential of what Harrison called Game 3.0, the executive spoke enthusiastically about Home, which will enable users to create their own avatar and explore a real-time virtual community, as if they are playing a PlayStation 3 game. The service, which bears more than a passing resemblance to The Sims 2 or virtual community Second Life, will become available globally beginning in fall 2007 as a free download from the PlayStation Store.
Just as each room and avatar will be able to be customized with free content, premium content will also be able to be purchased. Also, games will also come with game-specific content as well, so purchasing a game will allow players to introduce game related items to their virtual surroundings.
In a nutshell, Home essentially affords users the ability to meet and interact both via text and voice, in a wide open environment, or in a more private setting such as a user’s own customizable apartment. The service will allow players to stream audio to other players, as well as video content such as game and movie trailers.
Harrison offered the example of inviting your clan over to your virtual apartment to discuss tactics or just to hang out. In addition, Harrison also spoke about the ease of development of game-specific Home rooms, with developers being able to craft rooms dedicated to their games using a single unified SDK.
Finally, Harrison also demonstrated Home’s take on Microsoft’s Achievements system via the service’s “Hall of Fame.” Here players will be able to show off their various PlayStation 3 achievements in a customizable trophy room, as well as compare or browse other achievements earned by friends or other users. The service will also offer a look at trophies from games a user has not yet purchased. Home will go into a closed beta test this spring with a full launch targeted for later this year.