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Sony opens PlayStation Home to testers

Japanese users take part in closed test

Sony is to start accepting applications from users in Japan to take part in a closed beta test of its PlayStation Home virtual environment.

PlayStation Home is a virtual world where users are represented by avatars and can meet and interact with other users via text chat, voice chat and other unspecified communications methods, according to Sony. In demonstrations given by the company it looks something like a combination of the online Second Life virtual community populated by personal avatars along the same lines as Nintendo's Mii avatars, albeit with an appearance closer to that of a person and less like a cartoon.

When PlayStation Home was first announced in July last year Sony said it would be available globally in the 'fall' of 2007 but that was delayed until 'spring' 2008 at the Tokyo Game Show last year. Then, earlier this year Sony said it would be delayed again until a beta test in the second half of this year, which is a promise it has made good on.

Applications are initially being accepted from Thursday until August 11 from users in Japan only. Sony expects to offer access to about 10,000 gamers during the beta, which will begin in late August.

During the beta stage users will be able to play the games that make up Bandai Namco's 'Namco Museum' package, which include PacMan, in the service's 'Game Space'.

Similar closed beta tests are due in other markets at about the same time and an open beta test will commence later this year, said Sony.

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