Sony has overhauled its PS3 virtual world and promotional platform, PlayStation Home, and the new service is greatly expanded to include a variety of free games that players may actually care about. The new space is a large environment with areas themed after the action, adventure, sports and casual genres, with each hosting its own free-to-play game. There will also be two sales points: one for Sony’s video content, and the other for game DLC.Players will be dropped into the Hub, a home area that shows an introductory Activity Board and digital storefronts. The Activity Board will include a “robust questing and events system,” and while that isn’t described in further detail it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine light gamification coming into play.From there, players can navigate the 3D space to go to one of several Districts, each one centered on a theme and offering free-to-play games and demo sections of new retail releases. The Action District, for example, will consistently feature shooter and horror games. At launch, this area will feature playable segments of Killzone 3 and Dead Island, within Home, in a feature Sony’s calling Total Game Integration. Playing here will unlock additional content in the actual retail games. Also living in the Action District will be Bootleggers ’29, a free-to-play, team-based, Prohibition-themed first-person shooter.Bootleggers ’29Next, the Adventure District is a similar area for a slightly different set of titles: namely, Uncharted 3. The area will provide a “partial recreation of the Yemen level” from the game’s multiplayer beta, and will allow players to take cover and shoot each other using their Home avatars. Of course, unlocks for the full retail game are a given.Pier Park is the next District, which centers on carnival, puzzle, outdoor and arcade games. Players can ride a 3D Ferris wheel or play RC Rally, a remote-control car racing game featuring customized cars and stunts.It wouldn’t be an official Sony release without a way to sell you some stuff, so Home includes the Home Theater – a video-screening room showing episodes of Sony’s own shows Pulse and Qore as well as trailers and other promo material already found on Sony’s own PlayStation Blog. Also available is a Community Theater showing user-generated thrills and spills. If that weren’t enough, you can directly hand over your dollars to the Home Mall, a DLC shop for Home itself with additional avatar costumes and content for the free games.Lastly, the Sportswalk shows major league sports scores and headlines. Also here are a free Texas Hold ‘Em poker game and a sports trivia game.PlayStation Home Hold ‘EmOne more game, Cogs, can be found back at the start in the Hub. It’s a 3D version of an already-released “Steampunk puzzle game” based on moving tiles and spinning gears.A video trailer provides a more 3D introduction to the new service, and at just over one minute, it’s a quick watch. The trailer closes with the core of Sony’s new promise for Home: “All you have to do is play.”The redesigned PlayStation Home will be available for download on Thursday.Read more at Sony’s official Playstation BlogBlake’s OpinionSony may have finally nailed it with Home. For years, the utility has been a lame Second Life knock-off that’s served as a shameless point of sale for all things Sony. We can finally say goodbye to that space.This appears to be what it should have been all along: a virtual world compelling enough to bring in players on its own merit. Releasing several free games, across genre lines, likely assures that gamers of all stripes will be encouraged to at least check it out once. If it turns out to be most popular among action gamers, or casual gamers, Sony can modify Home later to cater better to that market.This isn’t to say that Sony has given up on the profit motive. A little reading between the lines of Sony’s blog post makes it look pretty clear that the Home Mall will sell enhancements to all these new free-to-play games. Could Home be Sony’s way of dipping its feet in the free-to-play market?What’s more, those free segments of Uncharted and Killzone are designed to drive sales of retail games, but at least it’s done in a refreshingly interesting way. If it takes less effort, storage space or time than a demo download, it’s a win for modern gamers.