Archive for January, 2009

PS3 “Home”: Metaphor for everything wrong with Sony

Posted in Consoles, Online Gaming, Rants on January 6, 2009 by Kit

Oh man, where to start?

Home is Sony’s newish social networking experiment. I was invited to the public beta and so I strapped on my  pasty, lifeless, zombie-like avatar and wandered around. It’s since gone live, and I have logged in all of one time since then.

Home is sort of like Second Life, only more boring. Instead of making and sharing your own content, as in Second Life, you are stuck with the fare that Sony sees fit to dole out (or, more likely, sell you). Home itself is free to use, and I was at first bemused and then horrified to find that there are stores in Home where you can buy things like virtual lamps for your virtual living room. In Home, you can:

  • View ads for Sony content.
  • Pay (real) money to wear a new (virtual) t-shirt with a corporate logo on it.
  • Pay (real) money to decorate your sterile (virtual) living room with sterile (virtual) furniture.
  • Get cursed at by a racist 14 year old gamer d0od.
  • Fake dance terribly to shitty music. (Really, Sony?)
  • Watch your connection to the Playstation network repeatedly crash.
  • Bowl.

The only people I could ever imagine using this product are masochistic shut-ins, and they’re all busy in Second Life or posting on their blog (…)

I’m going out on a limb with a prediction: this product will never make a dime for Sony, even if they keep it online for a million years. And I hope it never does. Sony doesn’t deserve to make money off it, because it’s terrible. It’s simply not a compelling experience. There’s no content in it that I can’t get better, elsewhere. The inability to create anything, coupled with the ridiculous pay-to-play stores … it’s all just crippling. And the bowling is stupid.

The only real feature the game offers is the ability to use Home as a way to keep in touch with other people on the PS3 network, but there’s already dozens of better ways to do that… many of which are actually already part of PS3. From my PS3 I can instant message, send email, voice and video chat. Most individual games offer their own way to arrange network games. There’s just no reason to load up a giant, clunky interface so that I can do it with a stupid virtual t-shirt on.

I’d rather communicate by carrier pigeon.

This product is a picture-perfect example of what happens to social media when an old-fashioned monolithic corporation gets its grubby fingers into everything. When this happens, you get a product that nobody asked for, that does nothing anybody wants, and looks like it was designed by an octogenarian executive who once read an article in the Wall Street Journal in 2003 about this whole Facebook thing and who uses jargon like “Web 2.0” with a straight face and whose secretary has a son who’s really into Second Life.

This man thought to himself, “What if somebody had the bravery to harness the power of all this new technology to  … get this … show people advertisements!”

It’s just so cute the way Sony missed the point. The great power of social media is the ability to create your own stuff, that’s what makes it compelling to people. The platform itself (whether it be YouTube, WordPress, Second Life, or Facebook) is just a delivery mechanism. If your platform is just a static ad-delivery-service, it’s not going to attract any users. It’s particularly ironic that the same people who brought us LittleBigPlanet failed so completely at Home.

But then, I’m getting used to Sony failing. And that sucks, because despite it all I still like my PS3. But if Sony sees services like Home as the future of the platform, then the future doesn’t look all that bright.