Playstation Home is back better than ever

Article first published as PlayStation Home is Back and Better Than Ever on Blogcritics.

A little over a month ago, at the L.A. Games Conference Sony was showing off Sodium 2, a new game on Playstation Home; unfortunately, the conference the coincided with the beginning of the PlaystationNetwork outage.  Early adopters of the Playstation 3 might rememberPlaystation Home as a kind ofSecond Life lite massively multiplayer online role playing game.  This is no longer the case.  While there are certainly comparisons to be drawn to alternate reality type online games, Playstation Home is all about gaming.  That is why Sony was at the LAGC, to let developers know that they have a new platform to deliver their games to their customers.

The advantage to putting a game on Home over the Playstation Store or a competitor’s Arcade or indie games list is that developers can build a virtual world to help contextualize their games.  Similar to a Disney store or a Build-a-Bear workshop, a themed store offers many advantages over just being on a list or in a catalog.  It also offers other revenue streams in the form of micro-transactions for virtual merchandise, etc.  Some of the companies with a presence already in the Homeuniverse are Activision, EA, Capcom, Konami, LucasArts, Namco and Ford to name a few.  The Sodium One and Sodium 2 games are a couple of great exclusive games currently on Home.

While there is still a beta tag on the Playstation Home logo, the experience now is a lot different than it was a year ago.  There are a lot of new areas, one of which is Aurora.  UK virtual publisher, nDreams, recently launched the floating archipelago within the Home virtual world.   It’s free to enter and visitors can check out the views, play games, win rewards and even buy their very own floating island.  In the first six weeks, Aurora has received over a million visits.  Many of the areas offer free games and avatar items but the experience is greatly enhanced by purchasing the additional content.

Another recent addition is the Musicality Apartment where you have a stage and four piece band set that includes guitar, keyboards, drums and dj station.  This space allows you to arrange music samples for each instrument to make your own compositions.  So far there are three music styles; dance, rock and R&B.  Dance is included with the space with the other two being available for purchase.  While not a fully featured sampling program, the Musicality Apartment is a fun exercise for you and up to three more of your more creative friends.

As a beta, there are still a few things for Sony to work out.  One of the most obvious issues that will have to soon be resolved is how to help people find all of the new areas.  As the list of places grows larger, it will become more difficult to find your interests.  Another area that could use some improvement is the kiosks where activities are initiated or items are purchased.  There is not much that tells you what you are starting or buying.  This of course forces you to be more adventurous than you might otherwise be while in Home.  As of now, the best thing to do is plan a couple of hours to sit down with Home and check out as much as you can and collect your free ‘Welcome Back’ items.  You might be surprised with how much there is to enjoy.

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