It's another black eye for Sony. After closing its online music store in August, news comes that the entertainment giant is delaying the opening of its online community for the PlayStation 3.
The online user community, known as "Home," will let PS3 owners create their own avatars and explore a real-time virtual community, as if they are playing a detailed 3D game for PS3. The free community was supposed to launch this fall to allow PS3 users to interact, communicate, join online games, shop, share private content, and even build and show off their own personal spaces to others in real time. But Sony fell short of its goals once again.
Kazuo Hirai, the chief executive for Sony's video game business, made the announcement Thursday at the Tokyo Game Show, a yearly event that displays new video game hardware and software . "We wanted to wait until we could offer what would be totally satisfying for consumers," Hirai said in a keynote speech.
Sony's Second Life?
Home would serve as an alternative to Linden Lab's "Second Life," a real-time interactive experience that has the Internet world buzzing. When it launches next year, Home will feature a modern environment offering spacious common areas, custom spaces dedicated to specific games, and personal apartments.
Users are assigned apartments in Home where they can invite others to join them as they show off their own style in an area they can personalize with furniture, art, and other items -- even a different view from their windows.
Users also can show their personal videos, pictures, and other digital media content found on their PS3 hard drives in their apartments. Sony makes it all happen through built-in text, audio, and video chat, along with emotional animations for each character. Home also serves up a "Hall of Fame," where users can display new 3D trophies that will be unlocked through in-game wins and real-time score rankings in PS3 games.
Delays, Delays, Delays
Home could become a strong competitor against Microsoft Xbox Live -- when it rolls out -- but Sony's track record with the PlayStation 3 is filled with delays. The PS3 launch in the United States was delayed. The PS3 launch in Europe was delayed. Now the PS3 Home launch is delayed. But Samir Bhavnani, a research director at Current Analysis, said the delay might prove to be a smart move, considering the reason.
"Sony has been testing Home. I'm not sure of the specifics, but the delay comes down to the user experience not being up to par," Bhavnani said. "This is a slight blow to Sony, but not a major one. There's still plenty of benefit to the PS3 and when the service launches sometime during the first few months of next year, gamers can take advantage of it."
The bigger problem with Sony is the stops and starts, Bhavnani said, suggesting that the company might need to get more conservative with its public announcements of launch dates. If Sony announced that the PS4 is coming out in 2011, he asked, would customers believe it?
"Sony needs to get its act together, but Sony is not the only one," he concluded. "Dell announced the 1330, but when people ordered the machine it wasn't ready to go. These types of delays are pervading the industry right now."