Sony's PS3 has been in greater need of good publicity than your average Scotman is in need of a drop of whiskey and... finally... it has some.
Determined to prove the console's online experience hadn't slipped terminally behind the Xbox 360's silky Live service, Sony has unveiled 'Home' – a rich, three dimensional world with avatar based social networking which ties directly into the console's integrated services. Think: video downloads located at a virtual cinema, audio at a record store, etc.
Now if this is all beginning to sound rather similar to Second Life it should. What Sony is offering here is very much following in the footsteps of this online phenomenon, the big difference being – while both are free – Home requires you to own a PS3 to get access.
Once you are £425 poorer however the virtual world of Home is your oyster. You are assigned an infinitely customisable avatar, a pad (which you can kit out with downloadable furniture, pictures and equipment) and any audio or video running on your hard drive can be set up to echo around your apartment walls. Outside, every person you meet is a fellow £425 poorer PS3 owner who you can chat with using emoticons, typing (via an onscreen or USB keyboard) or speech (using a Bluetooth headset). If friendships are struck then you can participate in online games together, go to the 'mall' to shop for Home add-ons, share your videos and audio back at your pad and more.
In true Second Life style there will also be challenges you can participate in which require teamwork with prizes up for grabs and commercial zones that will be sold to third parties to create further areas you can flock to.
Of course, in these instances, a video is worth a thousand words so before I get there Sony has released an official Home promo trailer which you can see here.
Home goes into a large scale beta test in April with the final version launching towards the end of Q3. If all the negative publicity which the PS3 has (quite rightly) attracted in recent months made you feel down about your monstrous pre-order this should put the smile back on your face.