By John C. Ardussi, President, Game Mechanics LLC
People think that as a developer we are kept up to date on what is going on more so than the public. You’d have to be, right?
Actually it is not true. The first information I read about the periodic updates is almost always from the forums. I once mentioned this to the Home Platform Group (HPG) and the next update we got one week’s notice. After that, it has been back to finding out about them from the forums. There have been a few things that we knew about ahead of time: locomotions and companions. But those were unusual.
So to answer your question about whether all developers know about the future of Home, the answer is that as a group we have no clue more than the general public. Some other developers might have a better clue, but developers in general don’t.
All that said, there are many clues that are all pointing in one direction that while not conclusive, are circumstantial. The point being that the decision, even if “made,” I am sure can easily be changed by someone at a certain level, in a room we have never been in, along with people we have never met. So while it looks fairly certain that a few things are going to happen, this is still just a prediction, not fact.
The clues all point towards one thing: Home is not going away anytime soon. While the staffs have been reduced and some people have left, new people have been brought in. GlassWalls’ position, for instance, is being filled. They are not just leaving it empty. And I have heard that they have hired someone new to handle the business end for developers – a new person, not a transfer out of QA or something. You don’t normally hire people if the position is short-lived. While I have been at two companies that hired me and closed their doors within six months, they closed due to no money to pay people. Sony is not in that situation.
Sony is also creating new business relationships that seem unlikely to end within a year. Pottermore, Dr. Who, M.I.B., Clearasil, Wrangler, all seem like the kind of business relationships where they would look bad if they ended them quickly. Imagine selling a big account like Harry Potter and then having to explain to them why what was a good opportunity six months ago is untenable now. It ruins your credibility. And while I do not know what Sony’s financials look like for Home, I am sure they are not losing enough to pay to fix their credibility later.
I will tell you that for the first time that I can remember, the HPG has sent all developers a road map of what they expect to be doing for the next year. It is not really as important what is in it as the fact that it exists. Someone in the HPG sat down and spent the time figuring out what they would be doing for the next year. While they may not know any more than the rest of us, if they do, this is a good sign. So again, it is not definitive, but it is a clue.
From all this, it looks pretty solid to predict that Home will live past the launch of the PS4. As a gambling man who spent time in Vegas, I would put all my money on that. I have no concern that Home is going anywhere anytime soon.
Will Home Be On The PS4?
While there are so many reasons why it should, there are a few pretty obvious reasons why it shouldn’t. The PS4 will have more memory and better graphics. If Home is put on the PS4, either it will take advantage of these or it won’t.
Let’s say Home does take advantage of the new hardware. Now apartments can have more furniture slots. While that seems like a good thing, it would make them incompatible with the PS3 users, which means that will not happen. And I can tell you as a developer, supporting 720p and Standard Definition (SD) TV screen resolutions is a pain. We already have to make sure that everything still works on older SD televisions. Adding 1080p would just add one more resolution that developers would have to make sure looked good. All our current graphics are designed to look best at 720p. Most likely if Home can run at 1080p, all new materials would be made to look good at that resolution and 720p would suffer the way SDTV does now. It just seems that it would cause a lot of problems.
Let’s say Home doesn’t take advantage of the new hardware. If Home did not update its graphics, it would look old compared to 1080p. So Home running on the PS4 would look like the PS3 most likely, which would not show off the coolness of the new hardware. And if all the current limits in Home had to be maintained for compatibility sake, then Home would basically just be running in a compatibility mode. And that may happen. Actually that is the only way I see it happening.
Which is why I doubt it will happen. Unless they create a PS3 emulator that runs all PS3 titles on the PS4, it seems unlikely they will create an emulator just for Home. While they have announced that PS3 titles will run on the PS4, the PS3 hardware is strange and hard to emulate. The PS4 hardware is not an evolution of the PS3 hardware, it is a complete re-think. From what people say, it is a much more familiar environment to develop on. That means an emulator would be harder to write. Then you would have to test everything you wanted to run on it because programmers do evil things that were not how the system was intended to be used. That is a big task. More likely they will have a linkable library that each developer can apply and patch their game for the PS4 once it works. That is my guess, but I could be wrong.
When the PS2 games were supported on the PS3, they just shipped a PS2 in the box. No real emulation. They cannot do that for the PS3 for the same reason they stopped doing it for the PS2 – price. Basically you are selling two consoles in one box. It is pricey, but it works. It would be way too pricey for PS3 hardware.
Will Home run in emulation on the PS4? I doubt it, but I would not put money on it. You never know when some engineer or a group of engineers suddenly go on a mission from God and do something everyone else thinks is impossible. If they did it, I would be highly impressed. There are a lot of highly impressive people out there, so you never know.
What Does This Mean For Home’s Future?
The PS2 was released in March 2000. Production ended December 2012. The PS3 was released November 2006. Guessing based on that, the PS3 will stop being made in the 2018/2019 timeframe. And Home does not have to shut down just because they stop making PS3s.
Which leads to the question: “Is there any reason why Home would shut down before they stop making PS3s?” Answer: Money. As long as Home continues to bring in enough money to pay everyone, I see Home staying open. But if Home becomes a cost with no benefit, then I could see Home closing early.
So if someone says they stopped buying items a long time ago because someday Home will be shut down, ask them if they recommend people stop eating because someday they are going to die. Stopping buying things and encouraging others to do so will cause what they fear to happen. The reality is that most people who have said they stopped buying things probably did not buy much in the first place. I sincerely doubt that people stopped buying things either 1) spend much time in Home now or 2) ever bought that much anyway. Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.
Why Is Sony Silent?
One of the painful things I learned a while ago is no one wants to be the savior of yesterday’s great idea. In 2001 I made a game and while I was finishing it, the company changed management. They never shipped the game even though it was done. Why? Because it was the baby of the prior management. If it was successful, the prior management would get the credit. If it failed, the new management would get the blame for releasing it. Everyone wants to be on the new team so they can be part of the new credits.
If someone came in and saved Home now, they would get a lot of glory. But saving Home is hard compared to riding the PS4 ship of giant marketing dollars. There is likely a lot of glory that can be spread around on the PS4 project. The only way there is glory in Home is if you make it a golden goose for Sony.
And no one may have the authority that is required to do it. I remember thinking that if I could convince the top people in Home that I had a great idea for Home that it would happen. They all agreed I had a great idea, but they could not make it happen. Sony may not want to commit the resources required to take Home to a new level. So it may not even be possible.
Home does not need to go to the PS4 to continue. Home will likely live out its life on the PS3. FOR FIVE, SIX OR MORE YEARS.
Enjoy it! Have fun. And do not let others convince you to stop buying things on Home. The people who buy things on Home are the heroes of Home. Their efforts help it to continue to exist.
The people who try and get others to stop buying items are tearing it down just so they can say “Told you so.” They have been saying that Home was going to close since I have been on it. That is three and a half years. I have a saying: “If you get up every day saying to yourself that today you are going to die, one day you will be right.” There is no glory in just being right.