Sony Gives Critics Cause For Pause

"Sony is launching a social network for PS3 users called Playstation Home, according to news coming out of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today. The network is a 3D virtual world similar to Second Life, says Engadget, except that it’s much, much better."

I’ve been pretty tough on Sony for their DRM strategy, their crappy stores, inability to build a decent online music service, and most recently for really screwing up the PS3 launch. I guess it was only a matter of time before the odds turned in their favor and they delivered something that is truly impressive.

The new Playstation Home service is probably less about being a Second Life killer and more about giving game consoles a new purpose in life, or in this case, virtual life. What I find appealing about Home is that it can extend the audience for PS3s beyond gamers, and for gamers it holds the promise of giving them something without a definitive ending point for them to participate in. In other words, games have beginning points and ending points, virtual worlds don’t.

The Sims being an example of the exception… but even the Sims is essentially a primitive virtual world, so Home should appeal massively to the same audience that is into the Sims (which is heavily women, BTW).

To close the point about games having end points, the game business is a hits business just like movies. Success rides on killer titles and franchise games driving consumption of consoles. Titles like Gears of War, Madden Football, and Gran Turismo become resasons for buying, and if a console maker and their software partners are unable to turn those titles out, well they suffer.

However, while game consoles used to enjoy exclusivity of titles, today’s market increasingly features producers putting out killer titles on both Xbox 360 and PS2/3… it’s somewhat analogous to the PC world where when everything runs in a browser window the choice between Mac and Windows becomes one of what Apple and Microsoft are doing with respectively and less about the ecosystem of software providers.

Playstation Home could end up being something that has greater value to Sony that game titles, if the experience of Linden Labs with Second Life is any indicator. While not putting game titles at risk anytime soon, I can see a trajectory where Sony builds a killer experience for users while at the same time giving them a platform to converge their other businesses like movies and music into, and indeed building entirely new businesses around advertising and content.

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