Sony Computer Entertainment pushed back its open beta test for the launch of Playstation’s Home, a 3-D virtual world, from the summer to the fall, marking the second time the company has delayed the launch of the product.
Unlike traditional games, Home is a sandbox world designed to allow players the flexibility to build, create and interact with other players without directed goals. However, Home is more than just a virtual world, it’s Sony’s answer to the Microsoft Xbox Live online service, which is why the company is reticent to roll out its product before the kinks have been worked out. A disastrous launch could set back the already reeling Playstation 3 console, which has lagged behind Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox360.
“We understand that we are asking PS3 and prospective PS3 users to wait a bit longer, but we have come to the conclusion that we need more time to refine the service to ensure a more focused gaming entertainment experience than what it is today,” said Kazuo Hirai, president of the Sony Computer Entertainment division.
The successful Home launch would not only place Sony ahead of Microsoft in the online space but also create new revenue streams for the console, which traditionally has been sold as a loss leader.
Third-party game developers now create games that play, by and large, cross-platform, which means console developers need to find new ways to leverage their existing intellectual property. For Sony, that means virtual worlds, said Christopher Sherman, executive director for Virtual Worlds Management.
“Consumer entertainment companies like Sony are looking at virtual worlds as new revenue streams,” Sherman told LinuxInsider. “Virtual worlds are a new media format that companies with existing IP are looking to leverage. Leverage your current IP and customer base in virtual worlds. Revenue opportunities include advertising, subscriptions and micro-transactions.”
Sony’s dip into the virtual world creation business could pay dividends for other divisions under the corporate umbrella.
IBM, Intel and Cisco have been working on virtual world applications that can be used in corporate settings. Tools such as virtual work space and teleconferencing are already being tested in Second Life, a popular virtual world run by Linden Lab.
For Sony, the launch of Home would give the company’s other divisions easy access to emerging software tools.
“It’s a whole new ball game for the Fortune 1,000 IT department, most of which haven’t likely seen the technology come their way just yet,” Sherman said. “Just as e-mail and instant messaging came before it, IT departments are going to have to get their arms around virtual worlds.”
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