It feels like an age ago, and in gaming terms I guess it was. The launch of PlayStation Home, one of the cornerstones of the PS3's launch era, was meant to usher in a new kind of online interaction. A place where the connectivity of Xbox Live could be turned into a virtual world, blurring the lines between community and the games they play.
And for a while, this was the case! Sony live-streamed press conferences and shows into the service (which to its credit it still does), Warhawk tried to bring its strategic features into Home, and most of the junk you could buy was related to video games.
But over the years, Home has changed. It never really caught on. It's a profitable service for Sony (and the third-party companies creating content for it), sure, and people use it, but it's hardly the bedrock of the PS3 community it was supposed to be. It's certainly no Xbox Live, and even Nintendo's fledgling online service seems to have more meat on its bones.
And yet it remains. So who, then, uses Home in 2012? If we're going by the weird shit that goes on sale every month for the service, I'd have to say...I have absolutely no idea.
Below you'll find some of the items and add-ons made available for sale in the service over the last year or so. Note that I'm not cherry-picking the weird/creepy ones; the kind of bizarre content here reflects a tone that's consistent throughout the offerings, which I think more than any survey or market research is able to sum up the kind of person using Home these days.
It's like someone took The Sims, smashed it together with late 90s-Eurotrash and added a dash of Second Life, just for colour. The results are, well, if nothing else the most unique and baffling array of content you'll find on any modern console.
I'm not saying that what Home's current users are doing or enjoying (or, to be more precise, buying) now is wrong. If you've found an online home and you're enjoying it, that's awesome! And if I sound condescending in any way, that's not my intent. Just because something is different doesn't mean it's worse. I've simply grown genuinely and increasingly fascinated by the shift in tone Home's gone through in the last few years.
But boy, I look at stuff like this and I wonder what Phil Harrison, the platform's champion, thinks. Because I bet when he helped launch Home in 2007, this was not what he had in mind.