The messy, doomed journey of PlayStation Home, as told by its architect

PS Home

"The problem is, when you're the internal solution in a big games studio, none of the internal teams want to work with you. The LittleBigPlanet guys, I love them to bits, those guys were trying to do something similar. And if you think about it, the ability to have experiences that are social and connected - they were allowing created content, we weren't - but making a home space wasn't going to be a big value to them. But imagine what we had had a slightly different attitude. And actually the LittleBigPlanet [Home] space itself was brilliant, beautiful. It showed what you could do. Even in Home, you're wondering around in this beautiful space. But of course they decided to put up a picture wall, which was great. Guess what the first thing people did on the wall was… draw dicks. TTP was the acronym - time to penis."

The other problem with Home was fulfilling promises that the technology couldn't deliver, which meant it became an aspirational platform that would never reach the heights made to an excited GDC audience in 2007.

"When Phil Harrison stood up and said we were going to have trophy rooms... we couldnt have because, unless it was mandated, no one's going to make a 3D trophy for every trophy you got in a game," Clark tells us. "And the live TV sets were actually impossible at the time, we found a way to do it later - video texture on a screen - but it wasn't physically possible when it was announced. So the things we got chastised about constantly were a problem. And you need to start out with killer content like any platform. We started out with very little content."

Shopping and chopping

But wedding social networking and gaming has never been an easy task, with Nintendo's Miiverse an example of where it's perhaps been implemented a bit more assuredly - but even that still has a lot of limitations.

"I think Home was a brave experiment," says Clark. "Home was the first freemium console experience. There were massive lessons to learn… But they've been forgotten about, they've been ignored, they've been treated, in my opinion, as irrelevant. But if you look at what was there, what we did, how people spent money in the console space, the way people engaged in communities… you could completely revolutionise the way you approach consoles as a platform."

PS Home

Home was a commercial success too, and saw 19 million active users at its peak. "38 million downloads, 3 million monthly active users, this is at the peak… that's not a failure. I genuinely think it was successful from a commercial point of view. It showed you could make money. There were like 20, 30 studios that made money out of home. Like five or six that made a million and a half a year, which is not big in the scheme of things, but individually those studios did pretty well. It made it possible for companies like nDreams and Lockwood to be companies at all. So it spawned a whole bunch of people doing interesting stuff. It spawned a whole load of lessons of what could be done in a social context on console. It taught me a hell of a lot."

So what happens now? Morpheus has the potential to transition Home into something amazing, but if Sony is to build its own Metaverse, it'll be on something else. Clark is convinced that we'll one day look back at Home as an early indicator of where consoles are heading, and it's hard not to agree. "The stuff we learned about 3D navigation, architectural UI. I think about 3D spaces in architectural UI now. If you think about shopping centre design, the way they lay out shopping centres, it's all about the flow of movement. And that's kind of like UI. If I see action stuff over somewhere, I can select to go over to it."

"There's an incredibly loyal community in Home. And that idea of creating a space for people to express themselves on their console of choice, with vast amounts of easy to play free content is brilliant. But it will probably be 10 years before we see its like again."

Hugh Langley

Hugh Langley is the ex-News Editor of TechRadar. He had written for many magazines and websites including Business Insider, The Telegraph, IGN, Gizmodo, Entrepreneur Magazine, WIRED (UK), TrustedReviews, Business Insider Australia, Business Insider India, Business Insider Singapore, Wareable, The Ambient and more.

Hugh is now a correspondent at Business Insider covering Google and Alphabet, and has the unfortunate distinction of accidentally linking the TechRadar homepage to a rival publication.