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PlayStation Home: the future of freemium games on PS3

by Steven Williamson on 25 August 2011, 10:40

Tags: Sony Computers Entertainment Europe (NYSE:SNE)

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Sony has signaled its long-term plans to transform PlayStation Home into a thriving social space crammed with quality free-to-play games. Currently, Lockwood Publishing’s Sodium franchise, available now via PlayStation Home, represents an important milestone in the history of Home. The futuristic WipEout-style MMO racer is entirely free, but users can purchase upgrades, such as boosters and engine parts, to improve the performance of their ships. Sodium is proof of the concept that high quality games can thrive in the Home space, have strong communities, make money and yet still be free-to-play.

Having announced that PlayStation Home is on the verge of a major update in the next couple of months, PlayStation Home Director Jack Buser has echoed the company’s intentions to host more games like Sodium and has also made the bold claim that Home is Sony’s answer to Facebook, which has thrived in the social gaming scene with the likes of Farmville and Mafia Wars.

Speaking with IndustryGamers, Buser believes that the free-to-play business model is extremely important to Home and says that the PS3 has the power to host high quality titles which could set a precedence for the future of freemium games. Buser believes Sony has hit a milestone in the free-to-play market.

"It really is a milestone in the game industry,” Buser tells IndustryGamers. “If we were to fast forward 10 years and look back at what PlayStation Home is doing right now, I believe it's going to be viewed as a turning point in the industry where we finally started to see these business models from the web actually take hold on consoles and start to create profitable businesses for console developers, using free-to-play and token-based play and ad-sponsored and all these cool models that really on consoles are only found in PlayStation Home. It's a huge differentiator for the PS3. You could not build these types of games on other consoles because they don't have a platform like Home."

Busers talks about leveraging the power of the PS3 to deliver high quality free-to-play games, including first person shooters and believes that developers will jump on board to support it.

"In fact, if you look at our developer community, it's a great mix of folks that have come from social game development on the web and traditional console development houses, coming together to build an entirely new class of games that's using the best from both worlds. It's using the most cutting edge and creative business models that so many sessions at GDC are all about while also giving a gameplay experience that's very much PlayStation – high definition, 3D, online multiplayer, action packed," he enthused.

If Buser’s figures are to be believed, it does seem like a low risk investment to create a game for Home and make profit fairly quickly.

"I'm very biased but I'll let you look under the hood for a minute. In PlayStation Home, you can build a full-on game that looks like a console game – for example, a full-on FPS or racing game – with a team of just 6-10 people and it'll take 6-9 months to complete,” says Buser.

“Everything's done with scripting using [programming language] Lua... so with a very small team you can create a game that's up and running on PS3 in just six months. And it's monetizing immediately!"

The success of the free-to-play space on PlayStation Home is going to be down to just a couple of things – will the games be good enough, and will consumers frequent the Home space and spend? Whether those consumers arrive in their masses is going to depend on what exactly Sony does to rejuvenate the PlayStation Home space in the next couple of months and whether developers will step forward and create great games. We recently heard one developer say that Home is "hell to code for," but he hopes that this update will also make things easier for programmers. If Sony gets it right, it could be great news for us all.

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