The similarities between "Home" and "Second Life" are obvious, but the differences that separate the two metaverses may save "Second Life" creator Linden Labs from total domination by corporate giant Sony.
The most noticeable difference between "Home" and "Second Life" is the graphics. "Home" features 3-D graphics reminiscent of a high-end PlayStation game. For example, avatars and other objects cast shadows, and characters feature an array of expressions. Since "Home" exists within a protected game platform, one which will be tightly controlled by Sony, it will have the added benefit of security. In much the same way that government oversight can protect citizens from nefarious elements, so too will Sony protect its "Home" users.
Conversely, "Second Life" operates as a complete democracy, one that borders on anarchy. Real-world users are free to create anything they can come up within the virtual world. A truck driver in Sacramento, for example, may find that he has a knack for designing virtual furniture that is the toast of the "Second Life" metaverse. Whatever he creates is his intellectual property, both in "Second Life" and in the real world.
It is in this manner that the "Second Life" economy has been allowed to develop. The truck driver can sell his furniture for "Second Life" Linden dollars, which can be exchanged for real-world currency through the "Second Life" exchange bank, LindeX. But "Second Life" is little-regulated, which can make it hazardous for users. A program called the CopyBot, for example, ran rampant through "Second Life" last year, able to copy anything created in the metaverse, and wreaked havoc on the virtual world [source: CNet].
With "Home," these potential problems don't exist. Sony decides who is allowed to act as merchants within the "Home" realm. The economy of "Home" will be a virtual extension of Sony's real-world business model: consumers giving their money to Sony rather than to one another. Sony will also have the added bonus of garnering business-to-business (B2B) revenue, by allowing other companies to advertise within "Home," or to sell goods there -- both virtual and real.
Another subtle yet significant difference between "Home" and "Second Life" is the means through which they are used. "Home" is exclusive to the PS3. It will be used just like a game would be played: on a couch, in a relatively open setting with a game controller. To Sony, this will allow for a more open experience, with several people in one real living room controlling what the avatar in the virtual world does and says.
"Second Life" is designed for use on home computers, which generally don't allow for more than one user. This makes Second Life "kind of a solitary activity," as one "Home" developer told gaming site Three Speech [source: Three Speech]. But this is not to say that one situation is better than the other. "Home" and "Second Life" may end up with their user base divided by this distinction: people who like their privacy and those who enter the metaverse as both a virtual and real social experience.
Ultimately, "Home" and "Second Life" are truly distinct creatures, which is to say that there will probably be enough room in our universe for both of these metaverses. PlayStation will offer its users a luxurious, clean and game-based world, where users can meet to see a movie together in a virtual cinema and then jump into a PlayStation game together. "Second Life" is much more a reflection of the real world in which we live, with all of the drama, invention and social decay that seems to emerge when people are left to their own devices.
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