Interview: Gamers Should Come Home
PlayStation Home has come a long way. I recently logged in for the first time in a quite a while, and I quickly realized I had been away for too long. It had gone and turned into Disney World; there’s no chance you see, hear, and experience everything in only one visit. And even after two hours, I knew I hadn’t even scratched the surface. So when I spoke to Home boss Jack Buser about the current state of things and the intended direction of Sony’s virtual social service, I had to admit: I’ve been out of it for too long. And now I also have to admit, I won’t ever be away for that long again.
We have some questions for Jack that he was good enough to answer; some are ours and some are from the readers but first, let’s get a general update concerning Home. This alone will likely pique your interest before we even reach the Q&A.
Jack: “Let me talk a bit about the evolution of the service since we launched. We announced recently that we had hit 14 million users worldwide, which is a great milestone for us and means we’re really playing in the major leagues now. The average session duration of a user these days is 70 minutes. That means that people are, on average, spending over an hour whenever they visit Home. And for people who really study these kinds of platforms, of all the needles, this is one of the most difficult needles to move; it really speaks to how engaging your platform is. How much is there, how much is there to do, and the fact that this metric is going up speaks to the amount of content on the platform. Home users tend to be some of the most engaged PS3 owners; they tend to play more games, watch more movies, listen to more music, etc.; they’re just a very engaged subset of the overall PS3 audience.
Right now, there are over 50 spaces in the North American Home alone and one other thing: we’ve thrown over 400 events in Home and this is very time-based, and unique to Home. Things will happen in a particular period of time and you have to be there in order to have that experience. For example, if you didn’t actually go to E3, you could log in and see a virtual replica of Sony’s booth. We had over 330,000 people visit our virtual E3 booth (which is a lot more people than actually attended that booth in person) and you know, that booth isn’t there anymore. You needed to have been there.”
“You need to be there” is a common phrase concerning PlayStation Home; that much, we now understand. As for the questions:
PSXE: Is Home going in the direction you envisioned when it first launched, or have there been some surprises? And what are the long-term goals?
Jack: “When we first developed Home; when the first concept of Home was ever envisaged, we knew that community would be an important part of next-generation consoles. But we saw a problem with the way consoles used the online system: notably, if I wanted to play a video game online with a friend, there’s only one or two ways to do it. I’d either have to know them in the real world and we had to have the same game and the same platform to play together, or I’d meet someone while playing a game, and add them to my Friends list. But you’d go on to the next game and totally lose track of that person; you’d never really get to know them. In the early days with Home, we wanted to solve that problem. We wanted a neutral environment outside of any particular game, where gamers all over could meet each other and get to know each other.
Home is still that but what we’ve learned along the way is that gamers love to play games, and it’s through games that they make these social connections. So we’re focusing on Home as a game platform; really, what better way to connect the users than through games? You can get all these great social interactions and now, it’s really tough to walk into Home without making a few friends. It’s that ability to connect with the PlayStation community in the context of games; this is our long-term vision: the idea that Home is a universal games hub.”
7/15/2010 Ben Dutka