Sony PS3 ‘Home’ beta early impressions: watch yourself slack at the mall with other virtual slackers

As for the value of walking around aimlessly, disco dancing in a plaza with strangers, or waiting in virtual lines, well that's something you can assess.

PS3 Home

PS3 Home

(Update: Photo gallery at end. Plus, I’ve added links below to other articles and reviews of Home)

Social networking is here to stay and you could even say it’s starting to mature. But the virtual world is still in its infancy. The most successful to date is World of Warcraft, where legions of fans pay a monthly fee to build a character and engage in adventure, the Dungeons & Dragons of the online world. Others such as Second Life had considerable hype, but have yet to find an ongoing market.

So it’s only natural the battle for social networking, which equates to big advertising dollars and recurring monthly revenues, hit the living room, just like the battle for downloadable video and all things entertainment. The Nintendo Wii was successful early on with creative avatars, cartoon-like icon representations of your virtual self. Sony with the PS3 had a rocky start and notable had no virtual world (although it did have an online store).

Today, Sony unleashed its long-awaited effort called ‘Home’. It’s still in beta, and has been for some time, but now it’s more widely available then ever before.

I took it for a test drive, not really sure what to expect, although my hopes were low. There is some good, there is some bad, and there is some unexplainable.

Set-up

Installing the new Home software was easy. I clicked the icon “Home” and within minutes had downloaded and installed the software onto my PS3. The program had to “reserve” approximately 3GB of hard drive space, presumably to make room for all kinds of future goodies, or in Sony’s eyes profits .99 at a time in the form of micro-transactions. More on that later.

When I started the program, some glitches were apparent. I received a few server errors, and had to try several times before I could get in to the Home world. I suspect Sony’s servers are receiving abnormally high traffic loads with new users jumping on board.

Creating your virtual self

Like so many of these virtual reality simulations and Web 2.0 applications, you need to create a cartoon-like representation of yourself. It can be fun. You have unlimited combinations it seems in choosing your physical traits and clothing. I quickly whipped up a saucy character with spiky hair and overwrought make-up. Hey, if you’re going to live virtually might as well not be bland.

It all starts in your $4M condo overlooking the Riviera

After creating the character, it was time to enter the world of Home. And it’s a sight to behold. I was standing in a modern condo overlooking what could be the Riviera. The glass, sliding floor-to-ceiling windows offer expansive views of waterfront villas, mega-yachts and rolling hills. This really is the good life!

I move around with the PS3 controller easily. The controls are simple, and I quickly figure out how to turn on a light (but it’s not dark, so I turn it off to save energy), walk out to the balcony, and sit on the couch. I add some retro wallpaper, and stand back to take a look. Ok, that was 10 seconds of fun, what next?

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