There’s no doubt Sony showed up at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco this week to cause a stir. And from early reception, they appear to have done just that. Slashdot was quick to praise the company’s newly unveiled Home community on Wednesday noting the rare applause for a Sony event, “This is the reason to buy PlayStation 3. The demo [got] a huge ovation… It’s crazy.”
Next-Generation duly recognized the seemingly good news with a dose of reality, “Sony is still trying to sell an extremely expensive games machine, with a limited number of blockbuster games, and a legacy of poor performance… Doubtless the PS3 story still has some set-backs and disappointments ahead, but finally, we get the feeling the worst is over.”
So can the PlayStation Home network offset the PS3’s high price?
Unless Sony turns the online community model on its head, it’s doubtful Home will become anything more than a value-add for PS3 owners for two reasons. First, as we briefly mentioned on Wednesday, social media only thrives via a low barrier to entry, and the $600 PS3 price tag is anything but. In comparison to Second Life (which Sony admittedly took a page from), membership is free. Sure, it takes Lindens to “play,” but that’s variable depending on what Second Life users want to do. So until Sony makes the PS3 more accessible (read: less expensive), don’t expect the Home community to grow much.
The second issue is Home’s lack of a true user-generated content a kin to Second Life shops, rides, goods, and services. Granted, such in-community experiences may be available someday on PS3, but from what Sony showed, it doesn’t appear to be the case right now. Text and chatting features are only a small part of Second Life’s allure. Home better go beyond user conversation if it hopes to entice console gamers for the long-term.
This isn’t to say we don’t applaud Sony’s embrace of social media. Home looks to be one very slick feature with mounds of potential, and we hope it does well. But it seems the PS3’s premium price will continually inhibit mass adoption until Sony properly deals with the issue and finally dubs outlandish Blu-ray and Cell development expenses for what they really were: sunk costs that shouldn’t dictate the current decision making process.