PlayStation Home: Capitalism at its worst?

Following on from the previous article in this series, ‘It’s good to be back Home‘ I’m now going to address the availability of clothes, furniture, and even ‘personal spaces’ for a modest fee, known as a microtransaction.  I must admit, I felt a little sick when I saw the rows of virtual t-shirts, jeans and trainers, each priced at a few pence each.  I just could not understand why anyone would want to pay for stuff like this!

Being the intrepid reporter that I am, I felt I had to try using the system in order to comment on how it works.  I picked up a reasonably cheap yellow t-shirt from some kind of brand that I’m not going to give airtime to here, some jeans, and some trainers.  The whole experience left me feeling a bit hollow inside.  We’ve run out of clothes to buy in the real world, and now we’ve been reduced to paying good money to clothe an avatar?!  Seriously?

I reasoned that at least I wouldn’t look like one of the other clones, wearing the default clothing options when you first arrive in Home.  Although I’ve resolved that I’ll never pay for anything again in Home.  I’m quite content to stay in my yellow t-shirt till the day my avatar dies (yea, I don’t know what I’m on about either!).  I suppose I’m frustrated by the sheer lack of free clothing, which is probably to force you to pay for additional clothing.

The most notable free stuff I’ve found has been from Killzone 2, Resistance 2 and Watchmen.  However that’s all fantasy stuff and would you really wander round Home dressed like that?  Having said that, being so incensed at the cost of all the clothing, I almost contemplated wandering round Home as Rorschach for ever more.  In fact, that option is still on the cards!

Home goes even further, giving you the option to move up the property ladder by paying for the Summer House, an upgrade from your Harbour Studio.  The cost?  About the average price of a PlayStation Network game, which for a virtual ‘personal space’, is pretty steep in my opinion.  You can also set up what’s known as a ‘club’ for you and other members.  You become the club’s ‘owner’, and as such you’re able to set-up and decorate a private clubhouse as a meeting point for club members. The clubhouse also features a notice board where the leader and sub-leaders can post messages and announcements to other members.

From what I’ve seen at this stage, clubs are currently free (in the UK/EU anyway) but there’s a notice to the effect that Sony reserves the right to charge a recurring monthly fee for the running of a club at a future date.  So in this case I’ll reserve judgement on clubs for a later date

For more on clubs, see: MTV Multiplayer- Sony Explains ‘PlayStation Home’ Clubs, Vanishing Virtual PSP

Considering how much I dislike paying through the nose for meaningless, virtual items, I may be wrong, at least in the eyes of Joe Public.  I’m seeing headlines saying that ‘the average Home session is 55 minutes long‘ and ‘$1 Million Goods Sold in PlayStation Home‘.  That’s just incredible.  So maybe Sony are doing something right after all.

I’m not going to back-track from my position against spending money within Home, but I will say that it might be best to watch what you spend as several microtransactions here and there may add up to a rather large credit card bill!  Furthermore, I may be persuaded to spend the cash a little myself if there’s something truly worth buying!  But I have an idea which may be a stop-gap between giving stuff away for free, and paying through the nose for every single item.  More will be revealed in a future update to the last article in the series, ‘PlayStation Home: The next chapter?

Whilst Home is still taking its first baby-steps, and looking a bit rough in places, I believe we’re witnessing the birth of something rather special here.  Microtransactions are just one facet of the Home experience.  Sure, this’ll probably be the most direct way Sony and others are going to make money from Home, but the value of Home also lies with the social experience mashed with content from games (such as Warhawk, Far Cry 2, Resident Evil 5 spaces), extending the reach of this brands and either driving more game sales, or simply promoting brands through exposure, like Red Bull is doing.

In fact, things have started to get very interesting indeed with the addition of Xi.  I’ll be looking at Xi in greater length in my next article, ‘PlayStation Home: We’re all going to Xi‘.

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