The Playable PlayStation Home Restored by Fans

Back in 2021, we released an IGN Inside Story about the PlayStation Home fans refusing to let it die, where we took a look at a few different homemade recreations of the short-lived, but much-loved social space for PlayStation 3.

In the piece, we met Nagato, a content developer working on Destination Home, a non-profit project attempting to revive PlayStation Home and restore the social hub for future generations to experience.

The restoration of PlayStation Home was extremely ambitious. After the original social space was closed, not only was the service lost, but so was its data. Home wasn’t on a disk or a cartridge and you couldn’t play it offline. It lived completely within the servers that are now gone, forever. That didn’t stop Nagato and the Destination Home team from dreaming big though.

In 2021, after cobbling together their cache data, the team built a working version of Home, but it was purely a single-player experience, serving more like a walking museum than a thriving social hub. In its infancy, the idea of having an active and public server –you know, the whole point of Home– was simply a pipedream.

Two years later though that dream has made significant progress. The Destination Home team have created a working online experience and are several step closers to fulfilling their thriving, social hub fantasies. I reached back out to Nagato to not only talk about the development journey since we last spoke but to also test out the playable version of PlayStation Home restored by its fans.

PlayStation Home Lives

“I just remember just spamming hello on the controller, and I'm like, this is insane.” Nagato says. “I remember being in a Discord with the development team and it was just a resurgence of emotions that happened. That gave us even more drive I would say.”

In October 2022, Destination Home finally launched its first closed beta for its biggest supporters and contributors. Allowing PlayStation Home to be played online with other fans for the first time in seven years. It’s by no means a complete package, but it is a landmark achievement for Destination Home.

“What's functional now for the closed beta is our ability to have cross-region compatibility.” shared Nagato. “We have found a way where we could take European spaces, US, or Japanese and put it into one massive server.”

“We've enabled purchasing features,” he adds. “[you’re] not really purchasing store content though, that is still to come. We're looking into how people can purchase free clothes and stuff through RPCS3 and PS3, but if you had original clothes and stuff like that, we inputted that in.”

I just remember just spamming hello on the controller, and I'm like, this is insane!

To be clear on this point; Nagato uses the word “purchasing” as a substitute for freely acquiring items from the old purchasing system. Destination Home has always, and will always, be a non-profit project. There are no microtransactions, at all.

“If you have your original PSN account and you bought stuff on Home, all your items –as long as it’s been donated to us, or we’ve archived it– will basically be alive.” explains Nagato. ”The clothes that are on my avatar I purchased way back in 2012.”

Destination Home is religiously committed to the idea of recreating the entire experience. This is simply their first toe being dipped into the central plaza pond, but their plans for a full recreation are big.

“We are currently preparing for closed beta 2, where we have thirteen spaces that we've hand selected from feedback from our members.” Nagato says. “We have a good hundred-plus spaces right now that are good to go, and ready to be deployed.”

Back in 2021, The Destination Home team’s data pool was limited. Collectively they combed all of their consoles for all the stored data they could find, soliciting whatever local or cache files any Home fans had left on their dusty PS3s with the goal of being able to reverse engineer and restore the code.

We have a good hundred-plus spaces right now that are ready to be deployed.

“At that time we were on 1.00 client and we went through many iterations to get the last client working, both on PlayStation 3 and RPCS3 emulators.” explained Nagato.

“During that time as well, we successfully obtained about 300 plus unique caches through various means of data capture.” he added. “After your video on IGN, we just had an influx of people just coming into the Discord or DMing me through Twitter, Reddit, even PSN -they found my PlayStation network!- just donating data. All of these things combined have really advanced the project to a point where we are ready for closed beta two.

The Aftermath

By Nagato’s own admission, the coverage on IGN helped. More eyeballs were now on the project and with that came more hardcore PlayStation Home fans generously offering their cached data.

“I would say after the IGN coverage, it was really a big, big boom.” recalled Nagato.”Right now there are at least 8,000 people in the Discord alone. Even guys like Wario64 retweets my stuff sometimes. It's [been] really useful because now I'm able to restore data faster, and people are wanting to donate. It really just sent us to the moon.

I saw this love and support first-hand in the comments sections. Overwhelming nostalgia and support for the thought long-lost social platform. However, not everyone was convinced that PlayStation Home needed to return, with plenty of the audience pointing out the existence of modern alternatives. Primarily, VR Chat.

After the IGN coverage, it was really a big, big boom.

After bringing this sentiment up with Nagato, he immediately began to make a passionate defence for PlayStation Home.

“Home has a nostalgic factor.” Nagato says.”People remember Home based on their events, like FIFA Arena where they had the 2010 world soccer events. They had E3 stuff. Whenever they played Home, they were like, ‘Oh man, I remember when I was in middle school and E3 came out and I won this award.’ The thing I did was play Dance Dance Revolution and try to beat all the developers. We have a big nostalgia factor.”

“Virtual worlds now are going more into the NFT, cryptocurrency sphere, which is a turnoff for people who may be not technologically inclined or into cryptocurrency,” he adds. “So, for me, when a lot of social worlds bring in that element, it obfuscates and minimalizes their player base, when Home is like: Here. If you little Big Planet, we got stuff for you. If you like MotorStorm, we got stuff for you. If you're like Nagato and just want to play Dance Dance Revolution all day, this is for you.”

Also filled with a similar level of nostalgia, I – perhaps naively – could see Nagato’s point. PlayStation Home always felt like it had a level of sincerity. Whether that was true or not, it always had the feeling of a place built purely to bring fans of PlayStation games together. Modern metaverses can feel cynical from the outset, appearing to use your love of franchises to manipulate you into spending more money. As I say these words the logical part of my brain tells me there was no doubt intent of this kind from Sony, but at least in terms of what it presented, PlayStation Home always felt a little more wholesome and cleaner than that, and a good chunk of the audience -perhaps looking through their rose-tinted, PlayStation Home nostalgia goggles- tend to agree.

Seeing the community's respect for the project overall is something that gives me the drive to do it.

“I see many people leaving nice comments about how Home changed their lives.” Nagato shared. ”I know people who literally met up on Home and have kids now. I know people who have long-term friends on Home, I still talk to some long-term [Home] friends here and there. Just honestly seeing the community's respect for the project overall is something that gives me the drive to do it.”

“You have companies like Facebook probably dropping billions of dollars on certain projects to emulate what Home did.” he continues. “Sony for me that was too far ahead for that time, the same thing with the Vita. You had these really extensive, cool projects that now have a big market.”

The Next Step

With a successful closed beta in the can and a second on the horizon, it feels like it’s only a matter of time until PlayStation Home is once again accessible to the world. So I had to ask; can they see the end of this restoration project in sight?

“I would say no,” he definitively states. “With a project like this, of course, we would want a hundred per cent snapshot of how Home ran. Will I feel like there will be a time when Home has become so stable that It's been running fine for one or two years after the closed beta test? I would say yes. But overall, it's just one of those things where the ball is always rolling.”

Inevitably with any online project – particularly one developed by fans in their spare time – there was the elephant in the room we’d yet to discuss. Safety.

“For me, I do not want my project [to feel unsafe].” Nagato says.”I know a lot of fan projects go through that… I want everyone to have fun on Home the way they [remember] it. I don't want anybody to experience any form of bullying. That takes the fun out of gaming and honestly, people game for one reason: To have fun.”

I want everyone to have fun on Home the way they [remember] it.

Nagato reassures me the team is working hard to make sure moderation will exist in Destination Home. But after working so hard on a restoration project, do they ever think they’d be tempted to expand the platform and maybe even develop their own content for it?

“Yeah, no Last of Us mini-games. No Gran Turismo.” jokes Nagato. “That's not the true sense of Home. If it came out [originally] then that's our model and we put it in. It's really not about [us adding content] unless it's quality-of-life fixes. If Home actually had bugs and glitches that broke the game, that stuff will be fixed, but that’s it.”

When I last met Nagato, I asked him what his ultimate goal was. What would be the moment he could pause, reflect and be proud of what they achieved? His answer, that simply seeing another person in a lobby and saying hello, was sweet and surprisingly modest. Considering they’d since achieved this and beyond, it felt like it was time for a new ultimate goal.

“When we actually have non-developers and regular people play our game, and we see them taking screenshots and posting it on Twitter and literally seeing that resurgence of happiness, that's when I would say will be the day.” explains Nagato.

“We already had it on a small scale, we had maybe 10 people in this lobby,” he adds. “But seeing a ton of players go to Sodium [and seeing] there's like 44 players in there. [Seeing people in] Konami, [playing] Dance Dance Revolution, and you see me and I'm trying to beat everybody in the game. Seeing people with their original clothing items. To have people enjoying that, that’s the day.”

If you’d like to get involved with Destination Home be sure to join their Discord server and if you enjoyed this article please check out our other Inside Stories about gaming communities. Including the weird and wonderful fans still playing Fallout 76 and the Final Fantasy 7 fans that are desperate to resurrect Aerith.

Dale Driver is an Executive Producer of video for IGN and a PlayStation Home fan/apologist. Be thoroughly bored by following him Twitter at @_daledriver.

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