PS3 to Remain Homeless Until Spring

It will be long, cold winter for PlayStation 3 owners hoping to take part in Home, an online 3-D virtual world that will double as a social network and gaming site for Sony. They’ll have to wait until next spring before the system is up and running.

News of the delay came from Kauo Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI), Thursday at his keynote address at the Tokyo Game Show.

The announcement was just one of a slew of details Hirai revealed about Sony’s plans for its line of video game platforms, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), PlayStation 2 (PS2) and PlayStation 3 (PS3).

The Homeless Hordes

Sony disclosed its plans to launch Home, a real-time, avatar-based virtual world, back in March at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Home is to be part of its overarching Game 3.0 strategy, which also includes the game “LittleBigPlanet.” After the April launch of the large-scale beta for “Home,” the company expected to roll out its 3-D destination during the fall and follow that up in the spring with the release of “LittleBigPlanet.”

The delay, however, comes as no shock, Brian O’Rourke, an Instat analyst, told TechNewsWorld.

“The delay is not a surprise, considering the immense challenge of creating a complex, graphically rich online community,” he said.

With its Game 3.0 strategy, Sony said it would leverage trends such as online collaboration and user-generated content in order to create an “engaging new experience in interactive entertainment and new streams of creative game development.” Users would no longer be forced to choose between content dictated by game developers; rather, Game 3.0 would flip the script and reposition the consumer as the focal point. As a result, PS3 users would play a role in the creative process.

The first component of this strategy, “Home” was considered a way for the company to reinvigorate flagging sales of its PS3 gaming console and finally establish an online presence to which its gamers would flock. Archrival Microsoft’s Xbox Live site has racked up millions of downloads and provided Xbox 360 gamers an online space to post high scores, congregate and chat about their current favorite game or a particularly challenging stage. The longer it takes Sony to put together its own offering, the harder it could be for the company to overcome the time deficit.

“However, ‘Home’ was becoming a key driver of Sony’s online gaming effort and is a key differentiator for Sony. So any delay in ‘Home’s’ introduction hurts Sony,” O’Rourke concluded.

DualShock 3, Long Live the PS2 and More

In addition to commenting on the Home delay, Sony head Hirai also confirmed the upcoming release of a new six-axis controller with rumble functionality. The DualShock 3 wireless controllers will hit store shelves in Japan as early as November, but gamers in the U.S. and UK will have to wait until spring 2008.

The hardware maker has lined up some 25 games to take advantage of the controller’s rumble feature, such as “Biohazard 5,” “Blast Factory,” and “Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.”

As part of its “strategic move to secure excellence in game development for current and future PlayStation platforms” Sony also announced the acquisition of Evolution Studios, maker of “MotorStorm,” and BigBig Studios, developer of the “Pursuit Force” game for the PSP.

To further improve the titles for its platforms, Hirai said the company will move to strengthen its relationship with third-party developers by sharing assets and know-how built up within SCE World Wide Studios. It will also hold advisory board meetings on a periodic basis, share SN Systems’ tool chain and implement a host of other strategies and sharing of information to enhance efficiency in games development.

Now entering its eighth year, Sony said, the PS2 has passed the 120 millionth shipment milestone, and demand for the console remains steady, especially in North America and Europe. As a result, SCEI will “continue to vigorously promote” the PS2 with the introduction of new and more exciting games.

Last but not least, the PSP, which saw the shipment of its 26 millionth unit in June, will soon be available in a variety of colors and come bundled with popular software to meet the needs of its large spectrum of users.

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