On March 31, 2015, a piece of PlayStation history died. PlayStation Home, the strange graphical chat client that had been running for about seven years, was ending on that day. I had almost forgotten about it until someone had mentioned it to me.
For those who never experienced it, Home was a graphical chat client that was meant to be used as a social hub. It was like Second Life but more PG and less phallic objects. Home was announced by then Sony executive Phil Harrison, complete with this trailer:
(courtesy of IGN.)
Naturally most of us laughed it off and mocked it incessantly. Webcomics, gaming sites, among other places were lambasting the idea, even more so when it was released to the public. For its entire run, it was a punching bag more than it was a legitimate thing.
When I got my PS3 around 2008, they actually were doing their “closed beta.” In spite of the dog-piling, I decided to hop in and give it a try. As the years followed, there was always that moment of “Oh right, Home is still a thing,” and I’d pop back in to give it a look to see what’s happening. This was usually when a big event was happening that had a Home space, like when E3 came around. For instance, back in 2013 I actually did a video of me roaming around the E3 Studio, which was an interesting experience.
I think I still have those pictures on my PS3 somewhere…
The game was perpetually in beta, and barely functioned from its early days to its inevitable demise. Lots of times you’d see creepy gray silhouettes as the game loaded players in, long load times, random stuttering while doing certain commands, the thing was a mess. Sony did try their best to integrate Home into their games, like unlockable goodies, matchmaking through the client, even special events, but hardcore gamers weren’t interested in the slightest.
Surprisingly, Home did have a fair share of great support from other companies. Lots of various studios worked on content for Home, such as spaces, items, the works. Some of the big publishers like EA, Ubisoft and Capcom threw their hat in the ring and made spaces for games like Far Cry 2, The Godfather II and Street Fighter X Tekken. Sony constantly supported it with spaces based on the Resistance and Uncharted series, complete with minigames to play. While they weren’t super great, considering the framework they had to work with, they at least tried.
There were some other things Sony tried that wasn’t a direct reference to events, like the Xi alternate reality game, and the Quest for Greatness series where you could find hidden items and get free stuff. Thanks to Home, I now have digital copies of Destruction Derby, Twisted Metal and the original Warhawk. So sometimes it did pay off to go Home.
I’ll admit that being in my twenties that I was not the target demographic for Home. This was made more for the teenager crowd, and it shows. Such as there being a kart racing game based off Clearasil products, and an endless runner type based on Slim Jim snacks. Even as I saw the crowd over the years, it was clearly for a different group of people than me. It’s hard for me to describe in words, but it reminds me of places like IMVU or Gaia Online, where it’s more about the communication aspect than the games and cosmetics. That’s where Home likely shined for many people, I bet lots of friendships and relationships coalesced thanks to PlayStation Home. It’s interesting to watch, really.
I should be praising the demise of PlayStation Home, but in reality I kinda miss it. It wasn’t amazing, but it was interesting. One of those strange experiments of the PS3 era that shouldn’t be forgotten. Thankfully I decided to go back Home one last time and see what I missed, as well as upload a few videos of what I saw. Below is a video of the stuff I had acquired over the years, from statues to couches, even miniature PS1s. There’s a whole playlist here with all the videos I took, including me “crashing” Giant Bomb’s livestream of the event. With any online-only thing, the only memories will be whatever is saved on video, and I’m glad I took part in Home even if I didn’t love it.
So did you experience Home? Do you have any memories of them, good or bad? Share them in the comments, I’m curious what the audience was like. Especially since most of my friends didn’t mess with it for long.