The failure of PlayStation Home to capture gamers' attention may be having repercussions as advertisers jump ship to the more media-friendly Xbox Live.
When PlayStation Home made its open beta debut at the tail end of 2008, gamers responded with a collective shrug of disinterest. The world had barely any of the content originally promised, felt empty and lifeless, and offered little incentive to log in more than once. Home's failure to connect with users may be the reason for Sony's absence from this year's Engage Expo, believe brand analysts at Brand Week, when the hardware giant had been promoting the service as the next big thing at the Expo just a year before.
Energy drink manufacturer Red Bull is still hanging out around Home, but the rest seem to be jumping ship - and to make matters worse for Sony, some are putting their marketing dollars to work on rival Xbox Live. "Microsoft has MSN," said Jon Epstein, CEO of DoubleFusion, a firm that specializes in in-game advertising, "They are much more of a media company than Sony has traditionally been."
While Sony claims that its free PSN service has almost 40 million users globally - approximately twice that of Microsoft's older, pay-to-use Xbox Live - analysts doubt that PlayStation Home sees constant use from the 11 million users who have checked it out. ""From moment one, it kind of felt clunky ... And once you got through that, there wasn't much there," said John Rafferty, creative director at Publicis' Denuo.
Leigh Alexander, news director at Gamasutra, said that the hype around Home was a product of the time, when people were predicting that virtual worlds like Second Life would be the way of the future, and that we would all soon be interacting with custom 3D avatars of our own choosing. But rather than 3D, said Alexander, people just wanted simplicity and ease of use: "One of the lessons we are learning on the Web-users want to do things as quickly and easily as possible even if that means static Web pages."
Sony, naturally, disagrees with statements that Home is in trouble, pointing out that entities like Fox and the U.S. Army have recently run advertising campaigns in the virtual world. "Over 30 partners have recognized PlayStation Home as an interactive platform to convey an immersive brand experience," claimed Jack Buser, director of PlayStation Home.
That may be true, Jack, but how many of these advertising partners actually go back after a single try?
It's no wonder that advertisers are growing to prefer the normal PlayStation Network over Home - at least people actually use PSN.