At Sony's presentation at this year's Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival, Sony's 'Beyond Social Gaming' lecture discussed Home for the PlayStation 3, with SCEE's Jamie Macdonald pinpointing 'the four Cs' behind Sony's plan for social gaming dominance.
Introducing the panel, Macdonald explained Sony's strong beliefs about how social gaming will revolutionize the market, commenting: "There is a large untapped market for entertainment experiences for groups of friends and cross-generational groups. The term at the time I used was 'Parlor games for the 21st century', which now seems impossibly quaint."
He continued of initial Sony online efforts such as SOCOM: "These took the traditional view of online gaming at the time and worked incredibly well in its way. There was no sense of community or extended social network, and also no commerce. It did tell us that competition was an incredibly important part of the social experience."
Macdonald concluded of his intro: "Users now are not just passive users of creative entertainment but they now expect to be able to customise content. They are also more receptive to a commercial relationship as well."
He then identified 'the 4 Cs' crucial to this imprved relationship with the customer: "Community, competition, creativity and commerce", indicating that Sony's plans for 'Game 3.0' focus on the 3rd C, creativity.
After introducing Paulina Bozek, who walked through Singstar for PlayStation 3 in similar form to previous developer show demonstrations, Peter Edward, director of the platform group for PlayStation 3's built-in virtual world PlayStation Home, gave attendees a peek into the ambitious vision for the environment.
"For the user, the value of home is all about being able to share the experience with their friends, both gaming and non-gaming brands," Edwards said. "It's about having a safe, reputable environment run by a trusted brand in which they can feel secure about making online transactions." He added that Home users will be able to use the virtual world to buy real-world items, initially using the PlayStation Store interface which will be itself extended into a fully three-dimensional virtual world "in the long term".
"Community is all about communication with other users," Edwards said. "In the longer term, we'll be implementing a fully featured social networking experience within Home."
Further building on the theme of online socialization around gaming, Edwards continued that Home will allow extensive customization of both the avatar and its virtual apartment. Edward projected, "Users will be able to share other content that they have created -- photos and videos of themselves, and user-generated content tools such as their own t-shirt designs."
He added, "We'll also be giving out tools to allow scripting, java minigames and so on."
Edwards is aware of the importance of community to gamers who play online, noting that it's "crucial" that Home cater to the desire for a competition component, such as that of the competing Xbox 360's Achievements system. "The ability to host tournaments and special events will allow maintaining interest in the game," Edward explained. "By maintaining contact with the users for longer, publishers will be able to learn more about the desires and requirements for the user," he adds, with each IP customizing its community focus.
Highlighting the benefits of the Home experience for non-game brands, Edwards noted that it'll allow access to the highly-coveted demographic that comprises the majority of the connected PlayStation audience with sponsored events, branded spaces, objects, furniture and clothing. "A virtual online experience is something brands have already experienced, but PlayStation Home doesn't contain the same kind of risk as the 'wilder west' online experience," he said.
Publishers will be given their own asset creation toolsets to enable them to offer their own downloadable items in Home, like avatar clothing and furniture, obtainable with the already-established PlayStation Wallet and micropayment systems -- Edwards hinted at the opportunity for revenue-sharing with users, to encourage placement of advertising within their spaces. Edwards adds that in the future, users will be able to buy full games within Home.
"In the longer term, once an engaged audience is there, there are revenue opportunities for all, including end users," Edwards said.