The Playroom PS4 1

The Playroom wasn’t made for you. Fresh from the relative success of EyePet, ex-London Studio suit Nicholas Douchet was head hunted by Sony’s top dogs in Tokyo in order to extract the potential of its fledgling PlayStation 4 format and the DualShock 4. The augmented reality obsessed executive eventually concocted a toy box powered by the PlayStation Eye camera, allowing you to interact with a robot named Asobi in an overlaid virtual sci-fi world. It proved a success in subsequent public showings, with publications such as the very one that you’re reading describing it as an unexpectedly impressive use of the Japanese giant’s next-gen hardware. However, no one could have predicted the success that the software would ultimately enjoy.

The platform holder announced shortly before launch that the title would come pre-installed on all systems, and it even toyed with the idea of offering post-release expansion packs to expand the roster of gameplay options. These arrived in the form of the Toy Maker, an example of how the console can be used in conjunction with a smartphone, as well as Ninja Bots, a kind of cyborg warrior endless runner. But it quickly became apparent right around release that the manufacturer’s PlayStation Eye compatible extra was going to garner its longevity from other areas – and that remains the case even some seven months removed from the title’s launch.

Sony may have built the PS4 around the very concept of share, but even it didn’t foresee the value of giving everyday gamers an audience. Within days of the console’s 15th November launch, services such as a Twitch and Ustream were bombarded with streams of people playing the free game in their living rooms. However, due to the very personal nature of these broadcasts – the implementation of the PlayStation Eye camera enabled real people, rather than virtual characters, to take centre stage – these sessions rapidly became less about the game on display, but more about the personalities playing them.

The Playroom PS4 2

This is what the YouTube era is built upon, of course; the likes of PewDiePie and, to a lesser degree, Smosh have proven that with a microphone and an entertaining enough attitude anyone can build celebrity-like success on the Internet. However, what was fascinating about the sudden surge of interest surrounding The Playroom was that PlayStation was providing the platform. One particular Washington-based couple set up a makeshift phone-in show, complete with homemade overlays and a wealth of lifestyle topics. It was an overnight sensation, accruing 5,000 concurrent viewers – and even messages of support from third-party publisher and developer relations specialist Adam Boyes.

Speaking live on the show, the executive outlined his surprise. “We always just thought that people would do streams," he beamed. “We never thought that people would do them with The Playroom.” But the success of the first call in session – dubbed ‘The Spartan Show’ – prompted a slew of other copy cats to take command of the Live from PlayStation application, with dozens upon dozens of other streams appearing shortly thereafter. Sadly, as is often the rule when anonymity and large audiences clash, it wasn’t long before proceedings started to take a turn for the worse.

Desperately trying to take control of the spiralling popularity of non-game related streams, Twitch quickly cracked down on the burgeoning practice of racy webcam shows. While many reports resemble little more than myth six months on, some claim to have witnessed indecent acts occurring within the game. Streaming site Twitch initially gave the title a second chance, blitzing a series of users from the service – before cutting its losses and culling the game entirely. “We removed The Playroom content from the directory because a majority of it was non-gaming related,” a spokesperson said. “We will look into adding it back as PS4 owners become more familiar with the games-only focus of Twitch content.” That, of course, still hasn’t happened.

The Playroom PS4 4

It didn’t put an end to the eyebrow raising antics, though. With Ustream still a very viable option, one Russian couple supposedly opted to use the service to broadcast their steamy lovemaking session via the PS4 – and it prompted a moderate tabloid sensation. Apparently, almost 1,000 gamers tuned in to the action, with many even using the system’s built-in chatroom to comment and make requests during the seedy 20 minute sexercise routine. The manufacturer ultimately drew criticism due to the reports, prompting it to make an official comment. “The PS4 system is designed to help gamers share their gameplay through popular social channels,” SCEE spokesperson David Wilson said. “It’s unfortunate that some individuals may abuse this feature and share inappropriate content.”

There’s no such thing as bad press, though, and despite the controversy, Sony was struggling to keep the PlayStation Camera – which is required to play The Playroom – on store shelves. Despite essentially being the only game to support the peripheral, the optional extra enjoyed a 15 per cent attach rate to the next-gen console in late March of this year, with the unit “severely supply constrained” at the time. It remains a best-seller even today, with the platform holder taking the time to mention the unit during its E3 2014 press conference last month – and announce some new DLC for its curiously popular free title.

Indeed, it would appear that the platform holder’s finally clued in to the demands of its fans, as the Set Maker seems built around the idea of live shows, as opposed to actual games. Unlike previous add-ons, this will enable users to project TV studio-esque icons, billboards, videos, and polls into their living rooms, allowing streamers to broadcast more professional programming from the comfort of their home – hopefully while remaining fully clothed. Still, while the platform holder does appear to have done a good job of putting an end to the lewd performances, the success of The Playroom is showing no signs of coming to an end. As we type this, we’re watching a live feed directly from a downtown barbers in Brooklyn. It’s not exactly the type of content that we expected to digest on the PS4 this time last year, but sometimes the unexpected surprises are the best.

Have you ever broadcast yourself to the PlayStation community using The Playroom? Do you ever tune in to watch other people’s shows? Become an online sensation in the comments section below.

Have you ever streamed yourself in The Playroom? (27 votes)

  1. Yes, I quite enjoy interacting with viewers11%
  2. Er, I don’t have a PS4 or PlayStation Camera33%
  3. No, I don’t like the idea of being watched56%

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