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December 10, 2008 5:03 PM

Sony's PlayStation Home boss says it's "leapfrogging" (Xbox Live)

Posted by Brier Dudley

Red Bull 1.JPG

Actually PlayStation Home Director Jack Buser wouldn't mention competitors by name -- he never used the "M" word -- when we talked about Thursday's public debut of Sony's new virtual world.

But you could tell what Buser was talking about:


"PlayStation Home is really leapfrogging the online offering on any other platform,'' the Foster City, Calif.-based executive said.

Microsoft recently upgraded its Xbox interface, dramatically improving it and adding the ability for players to create and tinker with 3D avatars.

Has Buser heard of any efforts by competitors to also add an immersive, virtual-world experience to their online game networks?

They couldn't even if they wanted to, he said.

"Frankly PlayStation Home just couldn't be done on any other game platform," he said, explaining that it takes advantage of PlayStation 3 features like Bluetooth headsets and hard drives on every console.

Sony's done lots of work building Home, and encouraging sponsors such game publishers and retailers to build their own spaces in the world. It's been undergoing private testing and opens tomorrow to PlayStation 3 users aged 13 and older with a broadband connection. It's free to console owners.

"Anybody that wants to try to play catch up is going to have a real hard time,'' he said.

In Sony Home, PlayStation owners create avatars that inhabit a complimentary apartment, socialize in public plazas, stores, theaters and areas based on the environments of different games. It's a dazzling service, and chock full of advertising opportunities and trinkets for players to buy with real cash.

Here's a space for the Motorstorm off-road racing game:

MotorStorm 1.JPG

And some avatars, sporting clothes from Diesel, a sponsor:

Diesel_Character_04_with_LOGO.jpg

Players' progress in games is displayed by trophies, similar to the achievements they can earn and display on Xbox Live. But Home still doesn't have the sophisticated matchmaking abilities of Xbox Live, even though the trophy system could be used to connect players of similar abilities.

Buser said advanced matchmaking is "very high -- to the top of our list" of upgrades that Home will receive: "The idea of bringing gamers together is a core principle of PlayStation Home."

In this futuristic space in the game, players can look back at physical game hardware:

PSP .JPG


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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.