Sony Interactive Entertainment is launching PlayStation VR on October 13, a brand new platform that will give the 46 million PlayStation 4 owners worldwide an opportunity to explore virtual reality at a price well below high-end PC gaming systems like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Sony has 50 games lined up for launch through the end of the year, including 20 available this week.
Sony has been marketing PSVR through its own television ads as well as through a series of Taco Bell commercials as part of a co-marketing partnership. But hands-on trials will play a key role in getting consumers who have heard so much about virtual reality to invest the $400 to $500 in the headset bundles Sony is launching.
Shawn Layden, chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios, explains to [a]listdaily what’s in store for gamers in the first wave of interactive offerings in this exclusive interview.
How has the investment in VR by companies like Google, Samsung, HTC and Facebook helped generate awareness for your product?
When you look at all the activity in the VR space, 2016 is the year of VR. It all came together at the same point in time, and that’s good. It’s raising awareness for VR.
What non-gaming opportunities is PlayStation VR opening up?
Virtual reality is allowing us to take the technology that we’ve developed to provide the best gaming experience in the home, and giving additional tools for non-gaming content developers to play with. There’s more crossover today than ever between the computer-generated graphics that we find in games and what we find in films. Those two entities are very closely aligned. Now, with the power of platforms like PS4, the importance of good narrative in games like The Last of Us show that people want more than the exhilarating adrenaline rush of the game. They want a good story.
People are also telling stories through 360-degree videos and sharing them on YouTube 360 and Facebook 360. What types of connectivity will PSVR have for people to experience homemade content?
We’re looking at supporting as many of those video formats as possible on our platform, but we’re coming at this first and foremost as a game platform. That’s our wheelhouse.
Can you talk a little bit about the advantage that Sony has over some of the PC competition, especially when it comes to pricing?
The answer was in your question. That’s certainly part of it. The fact that we already have over 40 million PlayStations worldwide that are capable of supporting PSVR is a huge advantage for us, as well.
How are you seeing game developers explore virtual reality game creation at this early stage?
We have a new platform and people are trying to find a way to interact with others and express themselves against that. They take formats and genres that we’re familiar with and try to bring it across this platform. So we’re seeing some racing games like DriveClube VR and Trackmania VR, some shooting games like RIGS and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, some indie games like Battlezone and Thumper. We’re going to see a lot of different types of content in the first year of VR as people search to find out what is the quintessential VR experience. I don’t think anybody should show exactly what it is right now, but I just wanted to make sure we’re actually doing things that are novel, innovative and first-of-its-kind.
How are you seeing developers explore PSVR with original content versus ports of existing franchises and games?
You’re going to see both kinds of content. A lot of it is built from the ground up specifically for the VR experience, and other games will have levels and modes or sections of the game which are enhanced by having a PSVR to play with that, like the Batman: Arkham series or what the Battlefront guys are doing with Star Wars. It’s pretty exciting in that area. We’re going to see a lot of different ways people come at this content, and I’m just as excited to see we have a lot of support from the indie development community. They see this as an opportunity to break into another area of a beginning market. It’s a really wide selection here, and we’re going to see a lot of interesting activity between now and Christmas, certainly.
How are you supporting multiplayer experiences within PSVR?
With the power of the network, you just need to put VR players into the same environment with games like RIGS playing three-on-three competitive gaming, and lots of other games where you’ll be able to put the VR headset on and interact socially with other people who are in that VR space. There are other video games like The Playroom VR, where you put the VR headset on and you are the monster on the screen, and you interact with all the other players in your living room who also have controllers and are fighting against you as the monster on the TV. We’re leaving it as wide open as possible with all the social connections that we can to see what kind of multiplayer gaming really gets the most traction in VR.
What role will exclusive games play in the success of PSVR?
Having exclusive content is always very attractive to the PlayStation owner. Certainly, the content coming out of our own Worldwide Studios will be exclusive to the platform, and we have probably a good dozen titles coming out between now and the holiday in that regard. Exclusivity allows the developer to concentrate on one platform and to extract all the power and abilities they can without having to move to a common denominator. So that’s still important. I think the users still find attraction and value in that.