PlayStation Home has come a long way. I recently logged in for the first time in a quite a while, and I quickly realized I had been away for too long. It had gone and turned into Disney World; there’s no chance you see, hear, and experience everything in only one visit. And even after two hours, I knew I hadn’t even scratched the surface. So when I spoke to Home boss Jack Buser about the current state of things and the intended direction of Sony’s virtual social service, I had to admit: I’ve been out of it for too long. And now I also have to admit, I won’t ever be away for that long again.

We have some questions for Jack that he was good enough to answer; some are ours and some are from the readers but first, let’s get a general update concerning Home. This alone will likely pique your interest before we even reach the Q&A.

Jack: “Let me talk a bit about the evolution of the service since we launched. We announced recently that we had hit 14 million users worldwide, which is a great milestone for us and means we’re really playing in the major leagues now. The average session duration of a user these days is 70 minutes. That means that people are, on average, spending over an hour whenever they visit Home. And for people who really study these kinds of platforms, of all the needles, this is one of the most difficult needles to move; it really speaks to how engaging your platform is. How much is there, how much is there to do, and the fact that this metric is going up speaks to the amount of content on the platform. Home users tend to be some of the most engaged PS3 owners; they tend to play more games, watch more movies, listen to more music, etc.; they’re just a very engaged subset of the overall PS3 audience.

Right now, there are over 50 spaces in the North American Home alone and one other thing: we’ve thrown over 400 events in Home and this is very time-based, and unique to Home. Things will happen in a particular period of time and you have to be there in order to have that experience. For example, if you didn’t actually go to E3, you could log in and see a virtual replica of Sony’s booth. We had over 330,000 people visit our virtual E3 booth (which is a lot more people than actually attended that booth in person) and you know, that booth isn’t there anymore. You needed to have been there.”

“You need to be there” is a common phrase concerning PlayStation Home; that much, we now understand. As for the questions:

PSXE: Is Home going in the direction you envisioned when it first launched, or have there been some surprises? And what are the long-term goals?

Jack: “When we first developed Home; when the first concept of Home was ever envisaged, we knew that community would be an important part of next-generation consoles. But we saw a problem with the way consoles used the online system: notably, if I wanted to play a video game online with a friend, there’s only one or two ways to do it. I’d either have to know them in the real world and we had to have the same game and the same platform to play together, or I’d meet someone while playing a game, and add them to my Friends list. But you’d go on to the next game and totally lose track of that person; you’d never really get to know them. In the early days with Home, we wanted to solve that problem. We wanted a neutral environment outside of any particular game, where gamers all over could meet each other and get to know each other.

Home is still that but what we’ve learned along the way is that gamers love to play games, and it’s through games that they make these social connections. So we’re focusing on Home as a game platform; really, what better way to connect the users than through games? You can get all these great social interactions and now, it’s really tough to walk into Home without making a few friends. It’s that ability to connect with the PlayStation community in the context of games; this is our long-term vision: the idea that Home is a universal games hub.”

PSXE: So in other words, we can expect a bigger emphasis on Home exclusive games – and the general relation of video games to Home – in the future?

Jack: “That’s one of the things we’ve really been focusing on recently: get as many games in Home as possible. We already have over 100 games now. We’re focused on bringing those types of experiences to users; to bring true games to users; the kinds of games you cannot play on any other platform. One of the things Home brings to the gameplay experience is the idea of the social game experience; you’re seeing a lot of innovation in this on other platforms like Facebook. But with Home, we can really leverage the power of the PS3 console to really speak to gamers. Our social games aren’t necessarily super casual experiences; they can be like hardcore shooters but still fit inside the framework of casual games.”

PSXE: I played Sodium One for the first time last night; it was really very fun. We’re hoping that game is successful so we’ll see more like it…

Jack: “At GDC, we announced a couple metrics for Sodium One: it had 1.3 million engagements in the first 6 weeks in North America. If you look at Home as a game platform, it really solves some fundamental issues that developers have faced, like ‘how is anyone going to find my game?’ It can be tough to get noticed on traditional consoles; you might not ever get discovered if you don’t have the big marketing budget. But Home is a 3D user interface at its core; it allows gamers to discover games very organically. So you can see that with Sodium, over a million people in a few short weeks found it, and that’s the power of Home. In my mind, it speaks to the future of the industry.

And the other thing about this is that Home supports multiple business models. There’s the Midway, where you can buy 50 tickets (only $0.99) and play the carnival games, and some of the free-to-play games in the Sodium Hub. You can always upgrade your free experience to a premium one through virtual item purchases; with the Salt Shooter in Sodium, for example, you can play a five-level demo for free, but a one-time purchase unlocks the other 45 levels. You gain social capital by playing these games, so Home is very flexible.”

PSXE: Readers have asked about a Trophy Room in their own personal space; might that be added at some point?

Jack: “The first step towards Trophy integration has been to award virtual items based on Trophies in select games. You see that in SFIV and RE5; you get particular Trophies that you can actually take with you into a 3D Home representation. There are items for your wardrobe and apartment, and you can display them however you see fit. What’s Step 2? …I can’t talk about it yet but I can tell you the idea of Trophies in Home is one we are committed to, and we’ve already begun…”

PSXE: Will Home somehow integrate the new upcoming technologies, like PlayStation Move and 3D?

Jack: “Well, we haven’t publicly talked about those technologies in the context of Home but in general, Home is an evolving platform from a technology and feature standpoint. But if there are features or technologies you want to see in Home, please be sure to let us know. A good place to do that is in our forums, or you can let us know in Home (specifically, tell our community managers). That feedback guides development so while there’s nothing specific for Move and 3D just yet, please let us know what you want.”

PSXE: Considering the PlayStation Eye will be even more popular with the emergence of Move, might we be able to take a picture of ourselves and that as our true-to-life avatar?

Jack: “One of the coolest things we’ve done along those lines is actually something a lot of people don’t realize: we let you take any picture off your PS3 hard drive and allow you to display it in a frame in your personal space. That’s a fantastic way to share your photos with your friends. It’s real-time sharing, really. In terms of avatar customization, we believe the current state of the avatar systems is extremely powerful; the user can create a very realistic representation of themselves or do something entirely crazy (there are tons of hairdos, too). There are even costumes that can turn you into game characters, like SFIV fighters, for instance. We don’t have anything to announce at this time regarding the Eye but this idea of allowing users to further customize their avatars is something we’re very focused on.”

Side Note: We asked about how PlayStation Plus and Home might mix ‘n mingle, but that’s not something they’re willing to talk about just yet.

PSXE: When will we be able to play our own locally stored music or videos in our private Home spaces?

Jack: “We actually had an exciting announcement at E3; it was our first step towards music in Home. In a new space called the Playground – the theme was inspired by ‘80s Brooklyn – you can purchase a boombox for your personal space; this allows you to play music there. The music is the same music featured in the public spaces; ‘80s hip-hop and pop and stuff; this is just the first step towards experiencing music in Home.”

PSXE: For those who have never visited Home, what would you say to get them to log in?

Jack: “For new people, I definitely recommend checking out the PS Store where you can buy a Starter Pack; virtual items just to get you started and they’re heavily discounted. Beyond that, just come in to play the games. There are 100 games ready to go and you’ll make tons of friends; it’s just going to happen. A ton of it is free to play and more fantastic games are coming every day. So really, just try it; just check it out. Pop in and see what happens.”

I also added that it didn’t take anywhere near as much time a I thought to download all the new spaces I visited, and Jack said they’re “optimizing the platform like crazy,” so the load times are significantly shorter. He also reminds us they’ve got background downloading so you don’t have to wait all the time. If you hadn’t noticed, it has become apparent that Sony realizes gamers are gamers, and they want gaming-related reasons to visit Home. And so, that’s really the focus, here; Buser spoke about something called “Total Game Integration,” which is the idea that Home can expand on the world of the game. It basically works both ways: you’ll get things in games that will unlock items in Home, and even certain Home things will unlock parts of the game. This right here is a damn cool idea.

Last but not least, be on the lookout for a big Home-related announcement coming on Monday. We can’t tell you anything about it right now but based on the tone and subject matter of this interview, you can probably guess what it might entail… Anyway, we appreciate Jack Buser taking the time to talk to us and we must reiterate, from the PSXE standpoint: if you haven’t been there in a while (or have never been there), Home likely offers a lot more than you might think. Prior to my last visit, I might’ve been skeptical at the idea that the average Home visit lasts 70 minutes. But now I believe it…I’m actually surprised it isn’t more.

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piratedrunk
piratedrunk
10 years ago

This is a great interview that leaves me optimistic about the future of Home. That said I usually check it out once every few months and my most recent visit still left me feeling underwhelmed by the experience.

Still can't wait to see what they do with it though as it is a very unique platform with a lot of potential.

Alienange
Alienange
10 years ago

There's a hundred games in Home? That I didn't know. I knew there were some, but a hundred?? Ok well, maybe I have to check it out again. I did play the Resistance game and got the T-Shirt, but I'd be interested in a a free to play MMORPG… or Farmville.

GuardianMode
GuardianMode
10 years ago

That sounds good. A farmville type of game in @Home does make sense. The items/tools could be bought in the Mall. Hmmmm I wonder if Facebook is looking into this?

Pandacastro
Pandacastro
10 years ago

Good interview. Im going to home rigth now 🙂

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
10 years ago

Great Interview Ben, thanks for asking the questions and getting some answers. Obviously he can't answer everything when there are announcements on their way and features that may be in development already. but it was cool to get some insight into Home and it's continued development.

I play in home a lot, as does my wife. We configure the communication so that we cannot be ping'd by everyone we run into, so if you see me or my wife (and you'll never know because I used both male and female avatars) you won't be able to talk to us except by prior arrangement. As I say though, I am in Home a fair amount, and it's grown and developed a lot since launch. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but even just playing with your personal spaces and avatars is a lot of fun and can burn hours.

I'll watch out for the upcoming announcement.

Pandacastro
Pandacastro
10 years ago

What's your psn name anyway or anyone on this website?


Last edited by Pandacastro on 7/15/2010 10:38:07 PM

sticklife
sticklife
10 years ago

I think we should have a psxe home party, and maybe someone could start a psxe club and we could all meet up once in a while and play. I'd like to play with some of you guys. Maybe we'd need more than one club if it fills too fast.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Another solid interview for PSXE, these are always interesting to read. Although I only go in every now and then there's something I have to ask the people in the know, do I have to buy a new frame every time I want to put a picture on my apartment wall?

Naztycuts
Naztycuts
10 years ago

No u can use the same one multiple times, just like furniture.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

thanks nasty

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Man they want 3 smackers for a frame?

GuardianMode
GuardianMode
10 years ago

As a matter of fact World. I read all my articles here on PSXE. On the other sites I take them with a grain of salt. Here they say it like it is without all the fanboy drama.


Last edited by GuardianMode on 7/16/2010 3:33:18 PM

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Guardian, you kinda lost me. Did I say something to you about other sites articles that I don't recall?

BikerSaint
BikerSaint
10 years ago

Great interview!
I haven't been in Home since the beginning when all the squids were bum-rushing the avatars they thought were females, so I guess I really need to go back & see just how much it's really changed since then.

First though, I really need to upgrade my 60 gigger, since after deleting a bunch of stuff, I still only have about 12 gigs of free space right now.

But sadly, I've got to wait it out a while longer till I get some extra bucks for a new 500 or 640 HD, plus an external HD to transfer & store my content on too.


Last edited by BikerSaint on 7/15/2010 11:06:05 PM

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

a 500 gigger isn't even that expensive, and well worth it. But some saves won't be copied 🙁

kraygen
kraygen
10 years ago

I saw a Wester digital 500GB on sale last week on newegg for $50. They are getting cheaper and cheaper all the time.

Fane1024
Fane1024
10 years ago

They still pester female avatars.

Qubex
Qubex
10 years ago

Thanks for the interview Ben… it was enlightening, however I used to be a big Home user to begin with, but in recent months I have left Home to some extent. I go in sometimes, to watch a few trailers and just walk around… however, over the years I had mentioned in here, that the Home doesn't feel very fresh or high tech anymore…

I feel the front end needs a huge revamp. It should have nice high tech feel too it, with a matrix type effect when you transition from one space to another. On XMB, after turning on your PS3, without even going into home, it should alert me that there are X updates available, and whether or not I want my system to go off and download them in the back ground. To have to go into home, step by step, select what I want is painful. I want to select all from XMB and let the machine get on with it. When I come back home is fully updated… and ready to use…

There are som basic functions that still need to put in that reduce button mashing on the controller… it would help. And I would like an XMB screen that actually represented an advance Home lobby, or maybe an XMB lobby that in actual fact was your apartment space, whereby you can do a whole host of things… etc…

Home is not bad… it is just that it could be so much better from a usability and personal media perspective…

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

*Currently in Taipei, Taiwan


Last edited by Qubex on 7/15/2010 11:15:43 PM

StangMan80
StangMan80
10 years ago

I haven't spend nuch time in home. I remember the first time I went into it, It surprised me. Every ounce in while I go check it out but the load time is so slow maybe it's just my connection but I may spend half hour in home and 10-15min is it loaading.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

Not anymore. Either that, or your connection is downright terrible. It takes seconds for most things to load now, with only the bigger downloads (which you only need to do once) taking a few minutes.

StangMan80
StangMan80
10 years ago

I live in the States, I don't have bad connection because it works well when I'm play online. I was in it last week for a few minutes to check out the Midway, prety sweet.
Maybe I just need to get averything downloaded and then check everything out.
Thanks guys.

kraygen
kraygen
10 years ago

Nice interview.

I check home every few weeks and it blows my mind how much it has changed in just the last year.

I look forward to the announcement.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

Just so I know, would people be interested if PSXE had a presence in Home? I won't go into specifics right now because nothing is solidified, but I'm just trying to gauge interest…

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Hard for me to say, it would definitely be sweet and a chance for live chat. Dunno how often I'd use it though, if I'm not blabbering in the comments I'm often gaming.

Scrooged
Scrooged
10 years ago

Hi Sorry Long time Stalker of this site, first time poster.

What sort of presence do you mean ? I think it would be really cool, I cant see it hurting you in anyway. If home does begin to pick up momentum it could only be a good thing for you in the long run.

PAKINIPS
PAKINIPS
10 years ago

Like he said^^^

BlinkBoy
BlinkBoy
10 years ago

well I would definitely use Home more if PSXE had a club in home or something.

So yes, PSXE and Home sounds like a good idea.

SirLoin of Beef
SirLoin of Beef
10 years ago

I think that would be pretty cool. I've not logged into Home in a while but I probably should, seeing as I bought a new house there and all.

kraygen
kraygen
10 years ago

Heck yeah, it'd be cool if we could all take our avatars to the psx area and hang out, chatting live.

Fane1024
Fane1024
10 years ago

Like most people here, I don't visit Home very often, but I'd join a PSXExtreme club.

I'd spend more time there if I could listen to my own music (specifically podcasts).

BikerSaint
BikerSaint
10 years ago

Ben,
I kind of have mixed feeling on it.
On one hand and in a perfect society, I'd say yes to PSXE in Home!

But on the other hand, I think the real reality is there are trolls everywhere(yes even Playstation trolls), so it could lead a lot of them to this site where it could also open up a huge can of worms here.

I could be wrong, but it IS certainly something to think about first.


Last edited by BikerSaint on 7/16/2010 10:59:59 PM

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Bumming around Home right now, the downloads aren't so bad… But with my Cole outfit on it doesn't seem right that I can't climb buildings 🙂

Lawless SXE
Lawless SXE
10 years ago

Lol… Maybe you should send the suggestion to Sony to allow the avatars in Home to be able to use Parkour, or Free Running then. You wouldn't need to worry about that then.

Fane1024
Fane1024
10 years ago

Ditto, especially in the Uncharted space.

That suggestion is already on Share, IIRC.


Last edited by Fane1024 on 7/16/2010 8:02:08 PM

___________
___________
10 years ago

home just really does not offer anything im really interested in.
but thats just me, ive never been one for the online social community crap, i dont use facebook or twitter or my space or any of that crap.
id much rather ring a friend up and talk to them, or meet face to face, than spend 2 hours on the comp typing to them.

id be cool to see sony have some arcade style machines in home, have home like a virtual arcade.
allow people to sign into home, have their avatar walk into a gaming room and hop onto a arcade styled machine and have a list of old school arcade titles for me to play.
now that would get me to sign into home and use it much more often.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
10 years ago

You need to start looking more into home. the gaming aspects of home are far more emphasized than before, just as the social aspects are less emphasized. Don't get me wrong, it's still a social networking application because it brings gamers from all over your region together, but there are lots of in-Home games. There are two arcade units you can buy, if you buy the Namco Museum classics there are another four, you can buy both a Darts board, and a Pool table (both are working games you can install in any of your Home spaces), and there are other games that come as part of some of the Personal spaces you can buy. All in all, Home is featuring more and more games. Not to mention Sodium Salt Shooter which is a very arcade style game that comes with it's own personal space as well.

___________
___________
10 years ago

yeah, maybe later once ive caught up on my backlog of games.
i dont have time to do the things i need to do, let alone want to do, let alone play around with home.

SmokeyPSD
SmokeyPSD
10 years ago

I'm still waiting for more control to be given to us, the end user. the community will not grow the way it should, unless we truely have the power to really do what we want with home.

That goes for media sharing, content creation, the whole works. Europe doesnt even have the tools for us to use our own pictures. We can do it in LBP for christsake.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
10 years ago

There are no picture frames in Home in Europe? Are you sure? We've had them in NA Home for a *LONG* time now.

What user control do you want that you don't have? You can customize your avatar pretty extensively, and can customize your personal spaces extensively. Loot provides a way to make videos within Home, What additional customization do you want? Custom T-Shirts? I don't see what you think is missing from the customization side.

The big thing that I feel is missing from Home is the ability to play back music and/or video in Home. Even if I was the only one hearing and seeing it, it would be a nice feature. The other thing that could help greatly is more advanced filtering of other users. When Home featured open, public chat, there were too many morons abusing the system and we had no way to block their offensive little mouths. If Home featured a function to select and block another Home user so that their avatar was not rendered, and none of their communication was seen or heard, it would be perfect. If that was implemented, the mics could be opened again without problem because if you hear something you don't like, you could block the person. If they were a visual nuisance (think of half a dozens idiots following a female avatar around and doing the running Man or another dance in her face every time she sits down), then it would simply be a matter of targeting the offender and blocking them.

The best thing is that blocked users would not even be rendered, which would actually lighten the load on the Home rendering engine.

Fane1024
Fane1024
10 years ago

Speaking of targeting, they need to improve the targeting system. Perhaps they should just go "game-y" and add a reticle.


Last edited by Fane1024 on 7/16/2010 8:08:02 PM

maxpontiac
maxpontiac
10 years ago

Ben – Once again you are the man. All I need is a GT5 space that is linked to GT5 itself.

Give me that, and I'll be a happy man.

0_o
0_o
10 years ago

Home needs trophies, like: if you win a game of chess 10 times you get a bronze trophy, dance all the dances and get another bronze trophy and getting 10 strikes at bowling etc…

This will bring more people at home and it will make it more fun!

maxpontiac
maxpontiac
10 years ago

That's actually a good idea. I would play those games for a trophy again.

CharlesD
CharlesD
10 years ago

As I mentioned in the last Home article I saw Ben online and noticed he was on Home, and because I really hadn't been on in a while and I thought it'd be cool to swing by and see if there were any upgrades I started noticing the differences immediately. I no longer get annoyed with load times, there's tons to do and you make at least two or three friends every time your on there.

You can play pool or darts w. a friend in you personal space or jam out to your new stereo. Sodium as a bunch of fun games and the fair gives you almost an hour of game time with prizes such as shirts, hats, and items.I was extremely impressed with all the upgrades and will certainly be visiting home a lot more often. Epically if this little announcement has ne thing to do with music or plus members 🙂

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

What the hell is the deal with that telephone in the inFamous space?

Gimmedat
Gimmedat
10 years ago

My PSN id is KingYellow64 my xbox live gamer tag is ItsKingYellow64,for anyone who wants to friend me.Need more friends for PSN though.

HighLife
HighLife
10 years ago

I cannot tell you the last time I went "Home." I should I go try out some of the little games.

Ben, a home space may be a good idea.

nogoat23
nogoat23
10 years ago

Nice interview. I'm definitely intrigued by the fact that the average visit is 70 minutes. I'll have to go in and check it out.

Fane1024
Fane1024
10 years ago

I bet a lot of that time is spent waiting for items to load in the Home stores. The other load times are much better, but the store interface is still clunky. It takes forever to search for the free items. It doesn't help that the "fitting room" feature tries to load a 3D model for every item you check (the prices need to on the item "tiles" and the fitting room needs to be an option).

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
10 years ago

@Fane,

They need to overhaul the caching engine for the shops. Once I've entered a shop and downloaded it's inventory once, I shouldn't trigger that load again for any item that has not changed. If they could manage that trick, it would cut the load time hugely.