Kamis, 11 Desember 2008

PlayStation Home opens its doors

PlayStation Home will let gamers create their own avatar -a virtual representation of themselves - and then interact with other users in a 3D environment.

Players can chat to other users, invite them into their own "home", and will soon be able to stream music and video.

PS Home will be available free to all registered PlayStation Network users.

The concept of a virtual clubhouse for PlayStation owners has been under development for a number of years, although it was not officially announced until early 2007.

Tim Clark, editor in chief at Official PlayStation Magazine UK, told the BBC that delays were expected, as the project was a "hugely ambitious undertaking".

"The idea behind Home is to create a virtual space for PS3 owners to meet up, talk and play games - the easiest way to think of it is as a hybrid of Facebook, Second Life and the prettiest game lobby ever."

"Given the experience is dependant on a stable, lavish 3D environment, and the fact that while every PS3 is broadband enabled - that's obviously not the case with a PS2 - so it's not surprising the project has taken some time."

Cash for corduroys

Although the service is free to PlayStation Network users, Sony is looking at future revenue streams.

Players can buy new clothing to dress their avatar, new more lavish homes will go on sale, and there are plans to add advertising to billboards and video screens.

Sponsorship deals and a source of real-world (as opposed to in-game) money will be welcome news to Sony, which earlier announced plans to cut 8,000 electronics jobs - 5% of the division - as well as shutting 10% of its manufacturing sites.

It is no coincidence that PlayStation Home is launching during the festive season.

According to Chart Track - which report on sales of music, video and software throughout the UK - more than 40% of all console sales take place in the last six weeks before Christmas.

But will PlayStation Home be enough to sway potential customers Sony's way?

Speaking to the BBC, Alex Pell - the assistant editor of The Sunday Time's gadget section, In Gear, said he was sceptical.

"PlayStation Home is great for existing users. It might not have the complexity or depth of Second Life, but it can be played on a console, rather than a computer."

"As you have an avatar, this means it's much more than just a flashy chat room, and as a medium, it's a great way of getting more out of the games you already own," he said.

"But ultimately what really matters is the price of the console and the availability of good exclusive games. You can get an Xbox 360, with four games and two controllers for £130. The best deal I managed to find was a PS3 with three good games for £270"

"Sony needs to find new customers and while Home is great for existing PS3 users, will people rush out and buy such a pricy console on the back of PS Home availability? I don't think so."


US car bail-out fails in Senate

The failure came after bipartisan talks on the rescue plan collapsed over Republican demands that the United Auto Workers union agree to swift wage cuts.

The White House said the bill had been the Big Three car makers' "best chance to avoid a disorderly bankruptcy".

The House of Representatives passed the White House-backed bill on Wednesday.

The Democrats needed some Republicans to back the bill in the Senate as they have a majority of just one, and some in their own party were expected to vote against.

'Three words away'

The BBC's Andy Gallacher in Washington says it was always going to be a battle to get the US Senate to approve the $14bn bridging loan.

The atmosphere in the Senate was tense and at times emotional, our correspondent says, as the Democrats made last minute pleas to get their Republican counterparts to vote in favour of helping America's biggest car makers - General Motors, Chrysler and Ford.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said he was "terribly disappointed" when it became clear the vote had collapsed, calling it a "a loss for the country".

"I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow. It's not going to be a pleasant sight," he said.

"Millions of Americans, not only the auto workers but people who sell cars, car dealerships, people who work on cars are going to be directly impacted and affected."

The news brought a sharp fall in share prices in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Australia.

Sen Reid said there had been too many differences between the Democratic and Republican representatives.

The Republicans left the closed-door meetings after refusing to give the car makers federal aid unless the United Auto Workers union agreed to cut wages next year to bring its members into line with their Japanese counterparts.

Republican Sen Bob Corker said the two sides had been very close to a deal, but that the UAW's rejection of wage concessions before 2011, when its current contract with the car makers expires, had kept them apart.

"We were about three words away from a deal," he said. "We solved everything substantively and about three words keep us from reaching a conclusion."

Alan Reuther, the UAW's legislative director, declined to comment to reporters as he left a meeting room during the negotiations, according to the Associated Press.

Our correspondent says it is clear now that there will be no Congressional action on a bail-out this year.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the government would evaluate its options in light of the collapse of the negotiations, but did not elaborate.

"We think the legislation we negotiated provided an opportunity to use funds already appropriated for automakers and presented the best chance to avoid a disorderly bankruptcy while ensuring taxpayer funds only go to firms whose stakeholders were prepared to make difficult decisions to become viable," he said.

President-elect Barack Obama had said he supported the bill.

The deal would have given the Big Three access to emergency funding to help them cope with the sharp downturn in sales because of the global financial crisis.

General Motors and Chrysler say they risk ruin without immediate aid. Ford says it may need funds in the future. The three firms called for $34bn between them when their bosses recently went before Congress to put their case.

The Big Three have all seen sales fall sharply this year in the US.

While this decline reflects an industry-wide fall that has also hit European and Japanese carmakers in the US, they have also been criticised for not offering an attractive range of vehicles.

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