In his GDC keynote Sony Worldwide Studios president Phil Harrison has told the global games community that software driven by user-communities, such as as its new virtual world Home, will "empower the next decade of growth in our industry all around the world".Sony will actively back this strategy with a number of its own applications. The primary one is Home, a free avatar-based 3D world that lets users congregate, meet friends, 'own' a private apartment and visit virtual shop-fronts.
Developed by London Studio, Home is a best of breed take on avatar-based environments like Second Life, but uses the PS3's capabilities to deliver a world that fills the gap between the interface on the PlayStation XMB dashboard and games themselves.
Users can customise their avatar's appearance, clothes and accessories - in time players will be able to pay for, or unlock via game achievements, the latter. The same goes for each user's own virtual private apartment that can be filled with furniture, invite friends to - and even stream music and video from their Hard Drive to.
A 'Hall of Fame' also takes pride of place in the Home world - this lets users display new 3D trophies that are unlocked through in-game milestones in PS3 games.
Harrison demonstrated all these features to a huge audience as part of the opening keynote for the first main day of GDC. He likened this new always-connected world to the Web 2.0 movement that has seen sites like Blogger, YouTube and MySpace succeed purely on the fact that they allow players to offer detailed customisation of their profiles and upload content. The same user-content driven strategy is what drives Home, he said.
"Our vision of the future, Game 3.0, will continue our track record of industry advancement by leaveraging the convergence of technologies, from broadband and video chat to supercomputer-speed processors, to make gaming more interactive and dynamic than ever before."
In an associated press announcement, corporate executive and CTO Izumi Kawanishi, said: "While the 3D graphics demonstrate the power of PS3 and the PlayStation Network, the most impressive feature in Home is the variety of ways in which multiple consumers, as well as our third-party partners, can experience the next generation of communication by interacting and sharing among each other. I feel strongly that this blend of community, user-generated content, collaboration and commerce will expand the future of computer entertainment."
Home is currently in a closed Beta test - in April Sony will launch a free public beta to the world, and the final version of the client itself will be available in the autumn. In time, Harrison said that the client will be continually upgraded and updated, like any other MMO world.
During the keynote Sony also took the wraps off LittleBigPlanet, the Media Molecule-made game that takes the Game 3.0 and user-driven gameplay experience into a game itself - more details on which can be found in our story here.
Harrison also demoed the new SingStar and its user-driven content, details on which can be found here.