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Home Sweet Home

At the Game Developer’s Conference yesterday, Sony’s Phil Harrison gave the keynote. Sony announced a new feature for the PlayStation 3 called Home. Similar to Second Life, player’s make realistic avatars. They go to a three-dimensional world (adorned with advertising) and chat with other players — using both text and voice chat. There will be games like pool and soccer to play in the world, as well as arcade games. Each player will have a house that they can decorate using free objects or objects they purchase from Sony. Players can also import personal pictures and movies from devices they plug into the PS3, and display them in their apartment.

Home can be seen as Sony’s answer to the Nintendo Wii‘s Mii channel where players can make cartoony avatars of themselves to use in Wii games. Another aspect of Home seems to be an answer to a feature in Microsoft’s Xbox Live online network — achievement points that are earned for reaching goals in games. In your house there is a room called the Hall of Fame. This room will feature trophies for reaching goals in PS3 games — like scoring 100 points in a basketball game.

Home launches as a beta-version in April, with the full release coming this fall. It will be free, but supported by advertising in the virtual world. There has been no formal announcement about the cost of purchasing additional objects like clothing for your avatar. Another question mark is whether Sony will allow the sale of user-created content, thereby creating an economy like Second Life. It remains to be seen how this move will affect lackluster sales of the game system, but PlayStation Home seems to be a good move on Sony’s part.

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