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PlayStation Home Coming Tomorrow

As stated many times over the last few months, PlayStation 3 owners will finally get to experience PlayStation Home by the end of the year. Is tomorrow good for you?

Kotaku is the latest website to chime in on the PlayStation Home gossip, speaking with Sony's Home director Jack Buser in a recent interview about an actual launch date. While no specific number was provided, Buser assured the website that the virtual community would launch by the end of the year, but not until after a successful launch of the Home open beta. Currently the software is still closed to the general public, binding its users to a tight NDA and preventing us from taking a few juicy, unofficial in-game screenshots.

But there's good reason for Sony's secretive nature: Home leaps beyond the limited avatar creation featured by those other current-gen consoles (360's XBE, Nintendo's Mii) . "Home is totally different than anything out there, " Buser told Kotaku. "Yes we have an avatar based system, but the value is the idea of meeting new people, launching games together. It’s a social network for gamers. Avatars have become par for the course on every game console now. We wanted to create an avatar system you would be proud to call your own. "

For gamers not quite aware of Home's impact, they should look to another virtual community: Second Life. For those addicted to this artificial world, they have found relationships and employment opportunities from within, able to sell valuable virtual items for real world cash. Of course, that won't be the case for PlayStation Home, however the base idea remains intact: create a second life for gamers, offering a place to live, friends to enjoy and premium items to purchase. Head down to the arcade and play a few games, or team up with strangers and knock a few pins down in bowling. The Mall invites shoppers to scoop up a cool pair of shoes, a new couch and more. The Theater offers game-related movies and other movie-based content provided by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Paramount Pictures and a variety of other studio partners; SPHE will utilize the Theater to promote its latest films, offering "exclusive video content, interviews and appearances from film talen. "

And Home will never remain the same beyond the default, central area. In a previous beta, Sony offered additional places to visit (themed spaces as Buser puts it) , including a virtual Bar from Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and a few cool rooms from Far Cry 2. These additional spaces will not be there just for looks: in the case of Uncharted's bar, visitors had to solve three door puzzles in order to progress into additional, Uncharted-themed areas. Sony designed Home to not only be a community experience, but a multiplayer environment where gamers can come together and play games, solve puzzles or see who can perform the best Robot dance.

According to Buser, Sony is working hard to ensure that developers and publishers have the tools and know-how to get involved. He blames Home's overall delay on its sheer size development wise, claiming it to be "a development platform" in itself, requiring a free Home Development Kit to create content for Home. Sony even set up a system for developers and publishers to pay another party to develop in-game content as well.

Currently the closed beta version of Home is v1. 02. 1, however Sony just announced this morning that it will open the doors to Home for all users on December 11... tomorrow! The company states that it will re-launch the Drake's Fortune and Far Cry 2 themed spaces as well, with other environments coming soon for Warhawk, Resistance, Guitar Hero and SOCOM (sorry no LittleBigPlanet spaces despite the pleas of Beta testers) . SCEA is partnering with Activision, Disney Eidos, Electronic Arts, Lucas Arts, THQ and UBISOFT, to develop virtual environments among other content for PlayStation Home. Ligne Roset (contemporary furniture designer) and Diesel (fashion design company) has also climbed on board to design customizable furniture and designer clothes to purchase through Home's virtual Mall.

Sony also reports that Red Bull has created the very first consumer brand space, an island featuring an airplane racing game modeled after the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. Expansion and completion of the island wil follow in early 2009 says Sony.

“PlayStation Home is truly a promising network community service on the PlayStation platform, made possible with the powerful combination of PS3’s overwhelming computational power and PlayStation Network that covers many countries around the globe, ” said Kazuo Hirai, President and Group CEO, SCE. “We are committed to providing PS3 users with exciting gaming experiences with PlayStation Home and together with our partners and users, expand the new world of interactive entertainment as we move forward. ”

PlayStation 3 owners have a lot to look forward to tomorrow as Sony loads up the Home client on the PlayStation Network. Unfortunately, Home will not be available in some regions. Users will need a broadband network connection and a PlayStation Network account to play. Please keep in mind that some content and services are charged. PlayStation 3 owners will be able to launch the client from the PlayStation Home icon located on the PlayStation Network column.