Skydance Interactive officially announced the debut of its first virtual reality game Archangel on Tuesday. The first-person shooter will bring players into the cockpit to pilot a six-story high war machine in a VR battle that travels across landscapes of a post-apocalyptic America in the year 2089.
Players can begin leading the resistance against tyranny exclusively on PlayStation VR for now, but beginning August 2, Archangel will be available on HTC Vive and Oculus, and later be complemented with locational-based experiences at IMAX VR Centres.
The launch of the VR franchise signals the start of a new vision and business division for Skydance Interactive.
Jesse Sisgold, president and chief operating officer of Skydance Media, oversees business affairs, business development, interactive, international acquisitions as well as sales and licensing for the David Ellison-owned company. Sisgold joined AListDaily to talk about how their debut VR game begins a news chapter for the diversified media and entertainment company.
On Skydance’s VR strategy . . .
Archangel is a story-driven, action-packed, triple-A VR title. A little over a year ago, we launched our third big pillar of content creation with Skydance Interactive with an emphasis on awesome, interactive gameplay for VR. The Skydance brand, for the most part, has been sci-fi, action, adventure, fantasy and PG-13 for audiences with the ability to cross media. Given that large demographic, we think VR, and in particular with the emphasis on computer-generated, hardcore interaction will weave the storytelling DNA of Skydance to make it more hybrid. It will work both for gamers, and for those who are more new to interactivity through a console. We think we have a super exciting vertical integration opportunity to capture IP that has a massive audience. It will take it to the next level in an authentic way through the VR experience that we launched at E3 last month with our partnership with Skybound for The Walking Dead game.
On how Skydance is creating experiences that are different from others . . .
We’re really thinking VR holds the future because there are a lot of great experiences coming out now that are much more passive, yet, still exciting because it transports you to others worlds. We’re a little less focused on that. We’re focused on immersing you in the world and then having you drive the story through interactivity. That would be hardcore gameplay components mixed with true emotions, great characters and stories—but you’re an active player in the story. I think that won’t be just limited to the VR gamer. I think that could be available for every adult and child that wants to fully dive in, and is available to silo themselves from their world for a certain amount of time.
On marketing VR . . .
I think the marketing bible is still being written for VR. It’s sort of similar to the early days of 3D. One of the hurdles that it has to overcome is that it’s really hard to express to someone how awesome VR is unless you’re in there experiencing it yourself. Also, the user base we’re talking to is still relatively small. You have to be able to potentially market through mobile VR experiences that will later lead to the console VR experiences—and then do your best to cut trailers, have great fan reviews and get great critical reviews.
On the advertisement opportunities VR presents . . .
VR needs to be authentic, organic and feel genuine to the user experience. That has to be No. 1. With that I think there are a lot of opportunities. I think not before long, you will see ad-sponsored or free-to-play [experiences], particularly on the mobile VR side. I think there’s an ad revenue [there]. Imagine you’re in the world, and the ad is with you. So there’s a chance to really immerse the person within the ad. Particularly on console experiences, where you’re building an awesome world and fully interacting with it. So to make that world authentic, you would probably not have everything feel generic—you would want brands that would really fit the space. I think there’s probably a pretty cool way to integrate products down the road—maybe even beyond what’s been done in movies.
On the VR adoption trends Skydance has seen . . .
The gamer demographic is jumping in early on. That’s for a variety of reasons. They’re often always on the frontier of trying new technology. If you already have a PlayStation or Xbox, it’s a relatively modest upgrade versus starting from scratch with other platforms and brands. Those prices are coming down, too. But if you look across, particularly on mobile VR platforms, you’re starting to get everyone. Now on the menus there are both adult-and-children-oriented VR experiences. I think you’re starting to see more and more of the general community coming in. But I think the gamer demo is still leading the pack.
On what the future holds for Skydance . . .
There is a lot of research and development involved, but we feel very good. It all starts with an awesome product for the fans, and with that awesome product, hopefully you get appreciation from what the platform provides. It’s just about being smart in how you reach potential consumers and to provide digital and on-site experience opportunities. We’re excited with the stuff we have coming down. We just premiered Baywatch with Paramount Pictures, of course, in late May. We’re following up Archangel with the very cool, online arena shooter PC game PWND. All of this is to get the audience to understand what Skydance is all about—which is a company making fan-first experiences, with authentic stories, and making sure that it fits the medium and keeps the quality bar super high.