Just last week I reported on a rumor the Sony was integrating Facebook with the Sony PS3. Last night Sony made this official, saying a new firmware update (3.1) was coming soon.
The bad news? Sony is expending resources on social media integration when its users are demanding a better social experience within the PS3 ecosystem (notably some kind of cross-game chat, similar to what the Xbox 360 offers). The good news? They haven't built any kind of dedicated Facebook viewer. Instead, what Facebook integration means in this context is the ability to automatically update your Facebook status based on events happening on your PS3. Specifically you can push an automatic update sharing what Trophies you've earned, or what game you've just purchased from the Playstation Network. In the future game developers will be able to build Facebook status updates into a game, so all your Facebook BFFs will know when you took down a boss or reached a particular level.
What I find interesting about this decision is that Naughty Dog incorporated a similar feature into Uncharted 2 (though they were pushing updates to Twitter rather than Facebook) which they quickly disabled once gaming journalists started playing early copies due to backlash about the amount of "Uncharted 2 spam" being produced. They kept it disabled until quite some time after release, then re-enabled a much more limited version of the feature. Perhaps in an attempt to keep this new Facebook integration from getting too spammy, it looks like you have to approve each update as it happens. In-game updates weren't demonstrated but I really hope I won't have to stop in mid-game to 'Confirm or Deny' a Facebook update. Perhaps games will let you select which updates to send from the options menu?
As far as visiting Facebook, the PS3's browser is supposed to be getting some tweaks that "make Facebook look even better," according to Eric Lempel, Director of PlayStation Network Operations (see video embedded below). Smart of them not to replicate the browser experience in a dedicated Facebook app. Firmware 3.10 has a few other minor features; photo previews are now laid out in a grid rather than one long column, and the Friends list is getting some minor visual tweaks. You can read more about Firmware 3.10 on the Playstation blog.
Sony broke this story on the eve of Microsoft rolling out its social media update (integrating Facebook, Twitter & Last.fm into the Xbox dashboard). By the time you read this, your Xbox should have these new features, which you'll probably never use (with the possible exception of Last.fm). The new Xbox update also rebrands the Xbox Video Marketplace as the Zune Marketplace and offers instant-on 1080P streaming, which (in my opinion) is much more intriguing than all this social media stuff rolled together. Unfortunately my Xbox is a launch unit (twice repaired) with no HDMI so I've been unable to test this new feature. I'd love to hear what your experience with it has been like. Please leave a comment if you've tested it!