One of the greatest things about the PS3 was the fact that it offered direct access to PlayStation Home (via the XrossMediaBar). For those unaware, PS Home serves as a sort of secondary reality for many Sony gamers as it allows a user to create an avatar likeness of themselves and even decorate their virtual apartment with the spoils of their gaming successes. Why this feature wasn’t added for PS4 users at launch is anyone’s guess, especially considering Sony’s move to make the PlayStation brand much more socially interactive and “connected”.
For all intents and purposes, PS Home has since morphed into a separate phenomenon which exists outside of any direct gaming experience but at the same time, acts as a bridge to it. For instance, when “Sodium” was released in 2009 it allowed players from all over the world to participate in a very unique MMO experience. Of course this has been followed up by Sodium 2: Project Velocity (in 2011) which expanded on the themes and concepts developed in the first installment.
The great thing about PS Home (as well as MMO’s like Sodium) is that it allows you to effectively make new friends in a more “organic” manner. Each person is essentially meeting and interacting with others utilizing a personal likeness, which really helps add a distinctive human layer to the equation despite the fact that it’s all digitized. Furthermore, you have an opportunity to meet different kinds of people (apart from the rabid FPS maniacs you might find if you’re only interacting via multiplayer modes in games, no offense intended).
Likewise, participating in community events can often win you many friends and help you to establish a following of sorts, particularly if you’re a skilled gamer. It is for this very reason that the PS4 truly needs some type of PS Home element / platform. With a variety of broadcasting services like Twitch having been made available, the thought of being able to connect one’s account to an avatar in the PS Home world is highly intriguing, to say the least. Just imagine how cool it might be to be able to mosey on down to a public space and even broadcast your gameplay from there, with users being able to instantly link to all of your social media offerings from this location as well.
Of course the most interesting proposition regarding the addition of PS Home to the PS4 relates back to the console’s hardware. In short, with such a wildly powerful box at one’s fingertips it’s not hard to imagine what might be possible where virtual worlds are concerned. Aside from being able to update the graphics and perhaps even apply one’s face directly to one’s avatar (via the PlayStation Camera), the entire size and functionality of the map itself could be made infinitely larger. Seriously, how bloody amazing would it be to have an entire series of connected cities at one’s disposal to explore? Additionally, what happens if they decide to fashion a virtual currency which could be used exclusively via the PSN? What if Sony decided to equate things like Trophy accumulation with this virtual currency, thereby giving people a reason to buy and play more games with the goal being to accumulate virtual wealth?
Currently, the question remains “will PS Home come to the PS4?” Luckily, it would seem as though Sony hasn’t officially ruled out the possibility of bringing the platform to the PlayStation 4, which is reassuring. However, the current lack of available information and tight-lipped nature of developers certainly isn’t particularly reassuring for dedicated PS Home fans. Given the incredible success of the venture (on the PS3) it’s hard to imagine Sony passing on an opportunity to delight current users and draw in additional people via some evolved form of PS Home. In fact, for a lot of people, PS Home was one of the only reasons they purchased or found themselves regularly logging into their PS3’s. Clearly not everyone is as ecstatic about the latest graphically-enhanced titles, with a number of gamers preferring to stick with more accessible arcade-style titles or the aforementioned comforting MMO experience(s).
Regardless, the addition of PS Home to the PS3’s bag of tricks marked an incredible turning point in console gaming. Up until its emergence one would have to purchase a tricked-out gaming PC and make do with whatever freely available MMO’s were out there. Of course now thanks to Sony’s efforts, more and more individuals are tuning into gaming and concepts like virtual reality (which simply wouldn’t be possible on a large scale if consoles didn’t exist). Assuming that PS Home does eventually come to the PlayStation 4 (via the PSN) it’s very likely that a slew of new and improved features will be tagging right along with it.