On March 31, 2015, a piece of PlayStation history died. PlayStation Home, the strange graphical chat client that had been running for about seven years, was ending on that day. I had almost forgotten about it until someone had mentioned it to me. Despite me publishing this on April Fools Day, I can assure this is a genuine post of remembering one of the more infamous moments during Sony’s floundering period of the PlayStation 3.
There might be some of you who read about this little thing somewhere on Wikipedia, or even when some YouTubers mention it as a gag for laughs. For those who never experienced it, PlayStation Home was a graphical chat client that was meant to be used as a social hub. It was like Second Life but more PG and with less phallic objects.
PlayStation Home was announced by then-Sony executive Phil Harrison, complete with this silly, fake-looking trailer:
(Video courtesy of IGN.)
Naturally most of us laughed it off and mocked it incessantly. Webcomics, gaming sites, among other places were lambasting the idea, even more so when it was released to the public for everyone to try. For its entire lifespan, Home was more of a punching bag than it was a legitimate thing people cared for.
When I got my PS3 around 2008, I actually tried the system during its closed beta. In spite of the internet dogpile, I decided to hop in and give it a try. As the years followed, there was always that moment of “Oh right, Home is still a thing,” and I’d pop back in to give it a look to see what’s happening. Usually this moment happened when a big event had a space in PlayStation Home, like during E3 events. For instance, back in 2013 I actually did a video of me roaming around Home’s E3 Studio, which was quite the interesting experience despite how goofy it all was.
The game was perpetually in the beta stages, and barely functioned from its early days to its inevitable demise. Lots of times you’d see empty gray silhouettes as the game loaded players in, exceedingly long load times to go to places, random stuttering while doing certain things in the world, and many many more things that showed this was a “beta.”
The thing was a mess. Sony tried their best to integrate Home into the some of their first-party games, such as unlockable goodies, game matchmaking through the Home client, even special Home hub areas derived from existing portions of the game, but hardcore gamers were just not interested at Home in the slightest.
Surprisingly, Home did have a fair share of great support from other companies. Lots of various studios worked on content for Home, mostly the same kind of hub areas with occasional interactive elements. Some of the big publishers like EA, Ubisoft and Capcom threw their hat in the ring and made spaces for games like Far Cry 2, The Godfather II and Street Fighter X Tekken among others. While they weren’t super great, considering the framework they had to work with, they at least tried.
There were some other things Sony tried that wasn’t just promoting their hot new games, such as the Xi alternate reality game, and the Quest for Greatness where finding hidden items could get free stuff. Thanks to the aforementioned Quest for Greatness, I ended up with digital copies of Destruction Derby, Twisted Metal and the original Warhawk. Sometimes it did pay off to go Home.
I’ll admit that being in my twenties as of this writing that I was clearly not the target demographic for Home. This was made more for the teenager crowd, and it showed. Some of the examples I saw in the last few days I visited Home before its shutdown was stuff like a kart racing game based off Clearasil products, and an endless runner game based on Slim Jim snacks. It was interesting to go through even as I was merely an observer who occasionally used the thing.
Even as I saw the crowd over the years, the people who were visiting and using Home was clearly a different group of people than me. It’s hard for me to describe in words, but it reminds me of places like IMVU or Gaia Online, where it’s more about the communication aspect than the games and cosmetics. That’s where Home likely shined for many people. I bet lots of friendships and relationships were formed thanks to PlayStation Home.
I decided to go back Home one last time before writing this, just to see what I missed, as well as upload a few videos of what I saw. Below is a video of the stuff I had acquired over the years, from statues to couches, even miniature PS1s. There’s a whole playlist here with all the videos I took, at one point I followed Giant Bomb’s livestream of the event and made a brief appearance at the end of the stream. With any online-only thing, the only memories will be whatever is saved on video, and I’m glad I documented some of this stuff before it was lost to time.
I should be praising the demise of PlayStation Home, but in reality I kinda miss it. It wasn’t amazing, but it was interesting. One of those unusual moments of Sony’s whole PlayStation 3 era that shouldn’t be forgotten. It was quite an experience, to say the least.
For those reading this: Did you experience Home? Do you have any memories of them, good or bad? Share them in the comments, I’m genuinely curious what the audience was like. Especially since most of my friends didn’t mess with it for very long.