Those of you who have been living a second virtual life in PlayStation Home had better prepare for some tear-filled goodbyes, as Sony has officially announced the closure of the online social/gaming service across all territories in March of next year.
It's like the old saying goes, “You can never go Home again.” Well, you can go Home again for the time being, but come March 31, Sony will be shuttering its bizarre little social sim that could, bringing an end to all of that bowling, puzzle solving, chatting and impromptu dance parties.
The word was made official through the PlayStation forums last night, with Senior Community Manager Tempest_Fire (presumed their Christian name but unverified) letting everyone in on the sad news. We announced earlier this year that Home would be closing its doors in Japan come March of next year but, at the time, no word about its continued operation in other territories had been made. This weekend's forum post, however, seals the deal for North America and Europe, too.
“PlayStation Home has been serving the PS3 community since December 2008,” reads the official announcement, suddenly making me feel very old for some reason. “During that time, tens of millions of users around the world have grown the social gaming platform into a thriving community of creative and enthusiastic gamers.”
Now that said community has been built, it's time to tear it down! Tempest_Fire pegs the blame on a “shifting landscape,” going on to announce that no further content will be published on Home beginning Nov. 12. As a side note, Mr./Mrs. Fire said that folks will be able to download content through Dec. 3 and, “as a token of our tremendous gratitude to the community, we will also be releasing a series of free content prior to the platform's closure on March 31, 2015.”
If nothing else, it sounds like they're trying to help everyone go out with a bang, offering up free goodies and a definite date for when the lights get turned out for good.
Home was actually a big part of my gaming life during the early days of the PlayStation 3. I got in on the beta and got to see what this weird and promising world of games and goofiness had to offer. In the beginning, there was little available outside of bowling, playing pool, a handful of arcade games, chess and never-ending dances to take part in. Still, I remember spending hours on end within the virtual walls of Home, chatting up friends while we enjoyed the available activities.
The service grew exponentially over the years, bolting on a ridiculous number of new spaces, games, activities and an unfathomable amount of virtual goods including outfits, housing, furniture, pets and the like. It straddled the line between Second Life and more core gaming experiences, including racing titles, mini-golf and even a first-person shooter, to name a few. It was no COD, but it gave people a place to enjoy their friends and their games away from “the norm.”
It's easy for people to laugh about Home, especially those who never really gave it a chance and assumed that, like themselves, everybody else had forgotten it. It's still a thriving community, it turns out, and I'm even thinking about jumping back in for a final farewell once that March 31 deadline gets closer. It'll be interesting to see how much the place has changed since my last visit.