Is PlayStation Home a “Beta” or a “Concept”?
To me, a “beta” release, is a product that is generally feature complete, almost ready for a final release, but still needs more testing, and still needs a few kinks worked out. Some recent great public betas that fit this definition very well include Google Chrome, Resistance 2 Co-op, and Ubuntu 8.10.
A “concept” is a product that is somewhere in between the brainstorming stage and the finished product stage. It allows developers to preview some promising design ideas that have been fleshed out enough to see but aren’t nearly at a finished state. At auto shows, manufacturers love to show the enthusiasts concept cars that show the general idea of a vehicle before it’s ready for full scale production.
To me, Home is clearly in the “concept” category. Home really hasn’t decided what its purpose is or what its core driving feature set will be. I’ve witnessed a lot of excitement around the whole 3D avatar concept. There is a sense that that style of interface can deliver a level of immersion and of informal social context that users just don’t get on the web. There has also been a strong backlash against this. Interest in Second Life has waned, the product has attracted a lot of cynicism. Google has even completely cancelled their Lively project after a very short and buggy public life span.
It’s fine to offer a concept type product like this to the public, however I think Sony is doing a poor job of setting expectations accordingly. If the PS3 gets a certain level of public attention, that should be spent on the PS3’s more polished and ready for end-user consumption products. It’s criminal that some of the PS3’s amazing exclusive content in 2008 has gotten so little attention, and focus has instead shifted towards negatives like the unfinished state of Home. The PS3 has an amazing lineup of exclusives and non-exclusives, they’ve made some giant changes to the PSN this year (in-game XMB, revamped store interface, video store, better headset, etc), and those should the core points that Sony should focus on communicating.
Maybe next year, we will see some of Home’s potential develop into reality. Maybe Home will overtake E3 as the biggest stage for game announcements and booth-babe-style media circus craziness. Or maybe Home will find some truly intersting ways to harness the imagination of the public that we don’t see on the web. But until then, I’d downplay Home and keep it at the “concept” stage of development.