The year was 2005. The internet was becoming a more and more useful commodity with each and every passing day. It was this environment that prompted Sony’s initial work on PlayStation Home to begin. The thought of a social networking service tied into the world of gaming was too tempting a proposal to pass up. And so work began in earnest, culminating with an open beta testing ground at the end of 2008.
Today, more than 10 million users frequent the PlayStation Home network around the globe. Many of them ready to help to enhance your very own gaming experience by offering their personal spaces, their custom avatars and, of course, the ability to test your skills against the best of the best from almost every country in the world.
So what exactly is PlayStation Home? What are its tangible benefits to you? What, exactly, can you actually do with this enormous network? Keep reading to discover the answer to these questions and more, as we drill down into the details of the network to truly enhance your personal gaming experience.
Social networking is today’s big thing. Websites like Twitter and Facebook dominate the internet, with people spending hours communicating with their peers and reuniting with their old school friends. Sony describes PS Home as a ‘Social Gaming Service’. You might not spend your time doodling on your friends walls or coming up with snappy one sentence catchphrases, but this social network is no less a social experience than its online equivalents.
You won’t be able to access PS Home on any older PlayStation consoles, or through any other medium. It’s a feature only available to those with a PS3 and, unlike Microsoft’s Xbox Live, it’s also a completely free service, all you’ll need is an internet connection. You can download everything you need straight from the PlayStation Store onto your PS3, ready to load the network straight from the Home menu itself.
With PS Home downloaded and ready to go, you’ll need to decide how much space to dedicate to it (3, 5, 8 or 12 GB). If you’ve never seen the network before it might be difficult to know which value to pick, so start with one of the lower figures and you can always change the amount at a later date. With that decision made you will soon find yourself thrust into a beautiful world of High Definition, a whole host of options available to you. From creating a custom Avatar to creating your Avatar’s home, from travelling around public spaces to meet and greet new people to playing mini-games; you won’t be short of things to do!
Let’s consider what you can actually do with PlayStation Home in a bit more detail, as it’s in the versatility and wide range of activities on offer where the strengths of Home really lay.
- Meet and greet other people from around the world, communicating in a selection of novel ways.
PS Home features many public spaces where you, and other people, can wander to enjoy the scenery or to chat with other people. The words that you want to type can be entered in a few different ways; you can use the PlayStation controller to type using an on screen keyboard, or you can take advantage of the console’s ability to use a Bluetooth keyboard, or plug one in via USB. These latter options certainly make it easier to make quick responses. Your text will appear within a speech bubble, allowing other users to easily identify you in a crowd.
Voice chat is another option that can be enjoying using PS Home, but this can only be utilised within your, or another’s, personal space, or through a personal call to a specific user. You’ll need a headset, again either Bluetooth or USB, to take advantage of the voice chat facility on offer.
To make life easier, you also have the ability to make your Avatar perform a few set gestures, and to say some preset sentences that the folks at Sony suspect we use a lot, such as ‘Where are you from?’.
- Customise your world by changing your own outfits, and even your own personal apartment.
It might sound like The Sims online, but the ability to make a space your own within PS Home was a clever addition by the people at Sony. Your own Avatar is also subject to rich customisation options featuring your body shape, gender, hairstyle and colour and much, much more. The clothes that you wear and accessories that you carry can be customised too, either from a standard collection or through buying or winning additional items.
You’ll be handed the keys to a free initial apartment with a beautiful view looking out over a harbour upon first logging in. You’ll only have one room and there will be a limit to the number of items that you can put in it, as well as the customisation options on offer. If you feel constricted by these options you can upgrade to a premium location from the Store, but it will cost you some cash.
- Play a selection of mini-games alone or with others.
With no games for your console whatsoever, you could still find yourself gaming the hours away with the mini-games on offer through PS Home. Home’s world is split into spaces, and game spaces certainly aren’t on its list to ignore. There are even game developer spaces available, where some of the large game corporations can launch mini-games for your enjoyment.
You could even unwittingly stumble upon some games when exploring the company spaces, such as Red Bull’s Air Race.
We’ve only touched on some of the many facilities available on the PlayStation Home network. There’s still user generated content, the playing of your actual games online and even the many updates stemming from Home’s weekly maintenance slot that we could mention. You’ll soon discover these things for yourself though, so let’s move on to discover what secrets are in store for us in the future.
Sony has made a commitment that their PlayStation Home network will not be neglected, with a promise made that around three new spaces will be incorporated each month. But that’s not all.
There have also been hints toward some other new functionality that we can expect to see in the upcoming months and years, such as:
- Trophy rooms for displaying your gaming achievements within your own personal space.
- The ability for much more freedom in user’s creating content, under moderation of course.
- Linking the PSP handheld console into the PS Home network.
PlayStation Home is a continually developing entity and, with lots in mind for its future, there will be plenty for you to enjoy no matter where your interests lay.