Playstation Home? - Jam

So it's been another tough week for Sony. The announcement that the PS3 in Europe won't contain the Emotion Engine / Graphics Synthesiser chip used

So it's been another tough week for Sony. The announcement that the PS3 in Europe won't contain the Emotion Engine / Graphics Synthesiser chip used to power the PS2 backwards-compatibility in current Japanese and US models was quite a kicker. The ramifications aren't yet clear, though Sony representatives have admitted that this means backwards compatibility will not be as complete in Europe as it is in the rest of the world. Combine this with the news that Playstation Network download pricing is set to be slightly higher in the UK than in the rest of Europe (and indeed the world), and the suggestion that retailers are forcing customers to pre-order their PS3s as part of expensive bundles (bumping the already steep price even higher), and you could be forgiven for thinking Sony are painting themselves into a corner.

But things could be on the turn. Next week the Game Developers Conference hits San Francisco and if rumours are to be believed, Wednesday's keynote could bring some big announcements from Sony's head of Worldwide Studios Phil Harrison.

Leading speculation right now is Kotaku.com and NeoGAF's talk of "Playstation Home". A rumoured online feature that sits somewhere between the Nintendo's Mii system, Animal Crossing, the Xbox 360's Achievement system, and Second Life. At the first insider rumour, speculators all over the internet hunted down this trademark registration over at the US Patent and Trademark office, combined it with some teasing quotes from a number of old Sony interviews, and ended up with an idea of Playstation Home that runs something like this: Hitting the "Home" button on your Sixaxis pad takes the user to a room in which their Mii-like (though less cartooney) avatar lives. By completing certain goals (soon to be present in all PS3 games), new items and furniture will be unlocked which can be used to decorate the room. Backing all this up is a set of solid social networking features - voice and video chat, media sharing, etc. The overall customisation and networking aspects aiming to bring a MySpace-like experience to the living room.

Sounds good - but is it true? And if it is, might it end up being too "arch" and "Third Place" to have the charm of its inspirations? More importantly, will the avatar be allowed to have proper red hair (unlike my Mii)?  It may well be that we'll find out next Wednesday ...