The week after Horizons discusses the potential death of Second Life, Sony releases its long-anticipated 3-D social network PlayStation Home. Its digital doors will open Thursday for a public beta, available through a free software update on PlayStation 3. The virtual world mixes instant messages and minigames with the dollhouse aspects of "The Sims." Pick an avatar. Outfit your virtual apartment. Shop for digital clothes (using real dollars). Wander 3-D areas lined with advertisements. Go bowling with your e-mates. Check out promotional areas designed after PS3 titles, such as the adventure game Uncharted.
In other words, it's Second Life with a Sony sheen.
The PS3 has always felt like a computer for your TV. Rather than going directly to a video game when you turn it on, the console boots up an operating system that's rather elaborate compared to its competitors. It comes with an Internet browser – leading to convenient, but ironic moments such as watching TV reruns on Hulu.com from your couch. PS3s will play music, report the weather, and display news headlines. And now, Sony unlocks the console equivalent of Second Life.
While Home is certainly an ambitious project, it seems inherently hindered by the fact that it's stuck on a video-game console. Typing is either cumbersome or requires an extra keyboard. Your friends are far less likely to own a PS3 than a computer – or Xbox 360 or Wii, for that matter. And exploring Home ties up the family TV, which your parents or roommates might object to.
Of course, there are a few perks to Home. The world will be crafted by a company known for good games. The PS3's graphics are probably better than most home computers, and the TVs are likely larger than monitors. System performance will be the same for all users, allowing designers to make the most of the world without worrying about a lowest common denominator. But slow Internet connections might complicate things.
So, how is Home better than Second Life? This is not a rhetorical question. Readers, you have to help us out. Does this excite you more than other virtual worlds? Will you be downloading this over the weekend?