The current PlayStation Home is brilliant; one click on that little Home icon from your PS3’s XMB, and after a bit of loading, you’re transported to a colorful little world with thousands of other people walking around in all sorts of costumes from their favorite games and going on about their businesses. There are virtual malls and movie theaters where you can actually go and watch a movie with many other users similar to how you would do in real life. Tons of free games to play with others, your own apartment (you can upgrade to a mansion if money is not an issue for you), go to the beach or nightclubs, visit aquariums, and all of this is done with some pretty decent graphics if I may add. The amount of things you can do in Home is quite amazing and it’s a unique experience on consoles.
But for all the good things that Home brings to the table it does have its flaws. Let’s start with a pretty obvious one: the loading times to go from a section of Home onto the next. It can take upwards of a full minute to get from the main plaza to getting inside the mall. As you approach the entrance, you are prompted to download the new area, and a minute or so later you get to your destination. The same thing happens when you visit a movie theater; you find yourself waiting there for a decent amount of time before the movie loads up on screen. Now don’t get me wrong, Home is unique in its offerings and 20 million plus users are a testament to that fact, but you can’t help but feel that the current overall experience is not as streamlined and seamless as you’d hope it to be. I’m sure part of the reason for feeling this way is because I don’t regularly use Home, although I’ve met some really cool people in there and I find it to be a refreshing new take on the whole social aspect of gaming.
So with the recent news of the Gaikai acquisition by Sony, I begin to wonder what the implementations could mean for Home and its users and how that will impact the PlayStation brand as a whole. Although I have a profound love for cool new gadgets and an undying curiosity for all things technology and science related, I’m by no means a very savvy tech head, meaning that some of the following hypothesis may not even be feasible using Gaikai Solely. So go ahead and hang on to your grains of salt and get ready to dive into a speculative world with me for a second or two.
Imagine if you had a virtual space where you could display all of your trophies and the gameplay videos of how you earned them. Well such a place was sort of promised to PS3 owners when Home first launched. Home was supposed to bring such a world to us, a virtual world where you could invite friends over to your virtual apartment where your trophies would be on display for them to see, and you’d have the ability to stream a movie from your library and watch it together, etc. Although, currently in Home, you can actually go to a movie theater and catch a show on Crackle with friends. But imagine if Sony uses Gaikai to take it a step further than just watching movies; what if you could actually fire up the Home app and catch a live stream of a Call of Duty competition with friends, with the ability to switch to different feeds and catch different parts of the game session as it unfolds, and better yet, the ability to seamlessly join in on the action. All over the net there exists websites where people actually get to stream their games live so that other users can watch. What if that was done directly from Home?
The PlayStation Vita Equation
Though all the things mentioned above would certainly be cool, the prospect of being able to do all of it from the PS Vita would take it beyond ridiculous. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Sony and Gaikai is the awesome potential that comes into play with regards to the PlayStation Vita, and I’m not alone in this. Sony has been touting cross-play and remote play between the PS3 and the PS Vita quite aggressively as of late, and I think that is because they’ve factored the Gaikai equation into their plans as well. But here’s where I think that Sony could really differentiate itself from what everyone else is doing, including Nintendo and the Wii U. What if Sony uses Gaikai to bring not just PS1, PS2, and PS3 games over to the Vita, but PlayStation Home as well? Sure we already have NEAR, Skype, and Cross Chat on the PS Vita, but just think of the implications that PlayStation Home could have on the Vita and it’s social appeal as a whole. PlayStation Home would bring a totally new dimension to the PS Vita, putting it far ahead of anything that’s currently available on the market from a social standpoint.
Microsoft is banking on Xbox Live and Kinect as their game changer; Nintendo is counting on the Wii U GamePad and Nintendo TVii’s social aspect as their 1-2 punch. But it seems as though Sony already has all the pieces of the puzzle and now it’s just a matter of putting them together.. Now keep in mind that some of the stuff mentioned above may well not be possible with just Gaikai alone, but nonetheless, I think that both Gaikai and PlayStation Home will really be the game changer for Sony and the PlayStation Brand as they already have the games front covered. If the cards are played right, Home can play a more central role in the PlayStation Universe, where each of Sony first party developers and the PlayStation Store can be fully represented in a virtual world and interact with their fans in a way that is unprecedented in gaming, and subsequently changing the landscape forever.
What are your thoughts on the potentials of Gaikai and PlayStation Home? And how do you think it positions Sony against its competitors?