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Sony to Launch Virtual Universe

Posted by SIM on March 7, 2007

By RACHEL KONRAD
7 March 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Capitalizing on the popularity of social networks and online worlds, Sony will launch its own virtual universe and another 3-D game built almost entirely by players. “Home” is a real-time, networked world for the PlayStation 3 in which players create human-looking characters called avatars. They can buy clothing, furniture and videos to play on a virtual flat-screen television in their virtual apartments.

The concept is strikingly similar to Linden Lab’s “Second Life,” a Web-based phenomenon with nearly 4.5 million residents. But Sony’s world will feature heavy doses of video games for avatars to play, as well as virtual arcades, music, movies and other Sony-approved media downloads.

Sony will launch a beta version in April and officially debut in the fall as a free download on the PlayStation online store.

Sony’s second virtual world for PlayStation users is called “LittleBigPlanet” and allows players to build obstacle courses, puzzles and other games for avatars that resemble beanbags – characters Sony dubs “sack boys.”

The game, which requires a combination of cooperation and competition, will debut early next year. A sample version will be available in the fall.

Sony Computer Entertainment America has not released pricing for “LittleBigPlanet.” Executives would not discuss how much virtual T-shirts, sofas, televisions or media downloads would cost in “Home.”

The games are part of a companywide push that Tokyo-based Sony calls “Game 3.0.” Executives who introduced the games Wednesday at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco called it an evolution in the video game industry, which began in the 1970s with disconnected consoles and “static” games.

“We’re putting power back into the hands of users – the players themselves,” said Phil Harrison, president of worldwide studios for Sony Computer Entertainment.

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Sony’s Home

Posted by SIM on March 7, 2007

Sony Fires 3-D Salvo at Its Rivals
By Chris Nuttall in San Francisco
March 8 2007 00:09

Sony on Wednesday sought to leapfrog the online achievements of its game console rivals Microsoft and Nintendo with the announcement of Home, a virtual world that will run on its PlayStation 3.

Sony, which dominated the previous generation, has been a poor third to date in sales of next-generation consoles and has lagged Microsoft and Nintendo in developing online services.

Microsoft announced on Tuesday that its Xbox Live service had reached the target of 6m subscribers four months ahead of schedule.

Nintendo has introduced a range of services for its Wii console, including a shop, Mii avatars, and news and weather channels.

Sony’s efforts for its PS3 have been focused until now on a simple online store. But at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, it unveiled its new 3-D world.

Home looked similar in concept to the Second Life virtual world that has garnered much attention, but its graphics were stunning, aided by the PS3’s superior processing power.

Sony has always maintained that the higher specifications of its console would ultimately give it an edge over its rivals as it encouraged the creation of richer applications for it. Home appeared to be the first evidence of this.

Phil Harrison, head of Sony Computer Entertainment’s Worldwide Studios, demonstrated how users could easily design 3-D characters, furnish an apartment and wander around the environment talking to friends’ avatars, using voice or text chats.

They could visit a games lounge and play pool on a 3-D table, visit a bowling alley or play arcade machines. A virtual cinema would allow them to watch movies with friends.

In their apartments frames on the walls and flat-panel TVs would show users’ own photographs and videos.

Mr Harrison said a large-scale “beta” testing phase of Home would begin next month ahead of a full launch in the autumn.

The service will be a free download. Sony expects to make money by selling premium items of virtual furniture and upscale apartments, as well as music and video content.

Gamers reacted positively to the announcement. But some said they would prefer to buy and use content by means of a standard interface such as Xbox Live’s rather than through avatars and virtual worlds.

Sony also announced that it was making available key tools for the PS3 to help developers build better games. It demonstrated a new game called Little­BigPlanet, which allows gamers to design their own games within it.

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