Where is PS3 Home at right now?
So where exactly is Home at right now? And before you say it, no it's not 'wherever I lay my hat'...
As recently as yesterday, Home beta testers received a new build of the hotly anticipated 'second life-like' environment to play with. This means it is unlikely we'll see Home in October either, since any feedback from the current round of testing would need to be dealt with, and development just doesn't happen that quickly!
In the new build there are some nice new features. The 'Home Square' that was shown at E3 is available for the first time.
Also, areas are now broken down into separate downloads. If you want to go to the 'game area', you download it and you'll be bowling and shooting hoops with the best of them. This means Home will have a smaller 'core' download and then you can just add on the pieces that make sense to you. Downloads will be, on average, around 20-40Mb per area.
Also in the new build the 'virtual PSP' has a 'phone friend' feature. I don't think this has got anything to do with a 'virtual Who Wants to be a Millionaire' gameshow though!
Home Safe has also been added. Home Safe lets you change certain privacy and interaction settings to make sure your Home experience is a safe one. It lets you change your communication settings, block users and access your PS3 Friends list.
So what else do we know about the state of Home right now?
The next stage of the Home beta will be invite-only. The current beta is for employees and selected third-parties only right now. Although the beta will expand to a wider group of people, it is likely these will be companies and individuals who are 'linked' to SCEE in some way.
By the way Sony, if you're reading this I'm a seasoned software tester and I never break an NDA... just saying...
So, I'm expecting a further round of beta testing plus a further round of 'showstopper' fixes before Home comes along. As the areas have been split off into individual downloads, it's clear that Sony will get the core download fixed and ready to launch and then work on adding additional features, areas and fixes in future downloads as people find bugs, suggest new additions or as new content arrives.
Finally, we now know that Home will just 'happen'. No fanfare. No 'big bang'. You'll just get it as part of a standard firmware upgrade.
So my money is on firmware v2.00 to hit in November, which will include Home, to ensure it is out for the big PS3 Christmas push. I'll go see what odds William Hill will give me on that.