PlayStation Home gets an extreme makeover

An inside look at the massive overhaul of Sony’s social gaming platform

Forget iteration. PlayStation Home is about to undergo a full-on renovation.

This fall, the PS3 social gaming platform will be relaunched with a brand-new central hub and accompanying neighborhoods. The goal: to put games at the center of everything. While that sounds like a perfectly reasonable aspiration, it was one that the team at Sony (admittedly) overlooked when initially building this platform.

“At its core, PlayStation Home has always been and will always be a community platform for the PS3,” says Jack Buser, director of Home. “What we’ve realized is, communities of gamers congregate around, shocker, games, and with 20/20 hindsight that seems painfully obvious, but it wasn’t always obvious to us.”

So bubble machines and cabbage patch dances aren’t enough to keep the crowds coming back for more? Apparently not.

“We tried everything with Home. We tried building lounges, we tried TV shows and videos,” Buser says, “and it became clear to us that games were the killer app for forming community on the PS3.”

With that in mind, the team went back to the drawing board. In their words, they pressed “the detonate button” on the current Home. They talked amongst themselves about “minimizing the time to fun.” Despite having 22 million users worldwide, they knew they had to rebuild Home in order to make it everything they hoped it would be. So they rethought (and please forgive the marketing parlance) Home’s “core pillars.” What they ended up with, in Buser’s words:

1. Games. “These are games you can play inside PlayStation Home. They are primarily free to play. They tend to be very social. They use constructs from social games, but build those constructs on top of core game experiences like racers and FPSs and all kinds of cool games that people come to expect.”

2. Total Game Integration. “We had integration with Killzone 3, such that if you did something in Home you could unlock points in the actual retail game of Killzone 3. Simultaneously within that strategy we’re working with developers so that if you do something within the game it could unlock content in Home. Red Dead Redemption is a great example of that, where you can unlock cowboy gear in Home based on activity in the game. So you can imagine games where you’re doing something in Home and you’re unlocking content in your game, you’re doing something in your game and you’re unlocking content in Home, and you start to form this continuous experience between the game and Home that can only be done on PS3.”

3. New Core Experience. “We have placed so much emphasis and made so much progress in bringing over 230 games to the platform, and we have Total Game Integration with a growing number of titles [including Dead Island], which is huge for us. Now we need to re-factor the core experience of Home to scream this new message. We want people to come into Home to be presented with a first-time user experience that says, ‘You, gamer, have come to the right place. This is a place that is built for you and is filled with a world of games. That’s what this is all about.’”

It’s the new core experience that’s at the center of the planned Home renovation. Click through to the next page for a first look…

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