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Develop: Is PlayStation Home the next great game development platform?

Kyle Orland

These days, every developer and their brother seems to be making a beeline for hot new gaming platforms like Facebook and the iPhone, visions of Farmville- and Doodle-Jump-style riches dancing in their heads. But nDreams CEO Patrick O'Luanaigh says all these gold rushers might be ignoring a more welcoming and neglected platform for their gaming projects: PlayStation Home.

O'Luanaigh spoke from experience when he discussed Home's game development potential at the Develop conference in Brighton this week. His company nDreams has already worked on a few game-like Home Apartments, including Xi, the first alternate reality game on a console. Surprisingly, O'Luanaigh said developing these titles for Home brought a lot of benefits over the Facebook and iPhone projects his company has worked on.

For starters, O'Luanaigh lauded the Home Development Kit Sony has created as an incredibly robust game-creation engine. Nobody knows about this potential, though, because most developers have spent their time in Home making simple promotional spaces for other games. "We see games as exciting as Joe Danger [coming to Home]," O'Luanaigh said. "It's essentially a great MMO engine."

Home is also a great place to make a game, O'Luanaigh said, because there's very little there competing for users' attention at this point. While thousands of games are trying to outgun Zynga and Playfish by going for Facebook's millions of users, virtually no one is aiming their games at Home's 12 to 14 million regular users, O'Luanaigh said. Getting in on the ground floor of a platform like this can pay significant benefits in the long run. "There's quite a lot of average stuff out there, so making a great big game or space lets you stand out," he said.

Of course, there are some downsides the PlayStation Home development. O'Luanaigh said Home users have come to expect high-end 3D graphics, which are a lot harder to put together than the simple art of many casual or social games. Those high-end graphics also make it hard to port Home games to simpler platforms like Facebook and the iPhone, O'Luanaigh said.

But overall, O'Luanaigh strongly encouraged developers to get in to the Home business before it saw its own gold rush. "Home can be a game development platform in its own right," O'Luanaigh said. "People will soon realize it's not just about chatting and apartments and clothing ... it's about creating great experiences online that are different. And Home is brilliant at online stuff because it's built right in."

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