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Sony embraces Web 2.0, alternate reality, in PlayStation Home

By on March 24, 2009

Damn. First I start becoming a cheerleader for Eidos, and now I applaud something that Sony is doing to embrace Web 2.0. Change is in the air.

But first a disclaimer. I’m going to talk about Xi, Sony’s new Alternate Reality Game in PlayStation Home, and I’m a non-executive director of the developer, nDreams. (And flipside disclaimer: all views in this blog are mine, and nothing to do with nDreams).

Right, that out of the way, let’s talk about why Xi is important.

Sony created Home to be a virtual world, a place where people can hang out, communicate, have fun, all the normal things.

The problem is that building a compelling virtual world isn’t that easy (as Google found out with the now-defunct Lively).  Virtual worlds need communities, they need content and they need regular reasons to be there.

Home hasn’t been a failure so far (it’s had 4 million users since it launched last December), but it has been accused of being “long on Sony marketing and short of fun“. Xi is one of Sony’s first attempts to change that.

It’s a free game, entered in Home, that players explore by finding the Xi logo and getting drawn into a substantial game that will develop over time. DevelopMag has covered the very few details of Xi that are public. It makes use of the Home environment, a range of Web features and the real world (as any good ARG would and should).

I can’t go into too much analysis now (not least because the success of the game will play out over time), but I think it shows that Sony is thinking hard about how to offer users of Home compelling, unique content, and reasons to spend even more time in their virtual world.

Which is a good thing.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: