Sony, already in the lead in the console war, is betting big on virtual reality. The man behind the games explains why he is a believer in PlayStation VR in this exclusive interview.
Sony Computer Entertainment is gearing up for a 2016 launch for its PlayStation VR headset by getting as many people to try it as possible. Sony has over 50 games in development for its first foray into virtual reality, and the company had 49 prototypes available at its recent PlayStation Experience consumer event in San Francisco to let gamers preview upcoming titles like Rigs: Mechanized Combat League, Battlezone, and Harmonix Music VR.
Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios for Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., is bullish on virtual reality. He sees nothing but opportunity, as long as consumers can try it for themselves. Trial will play a key role as Sony SNE markets PS VR to its global audience of over 30 million PlayStation 4 gamers. But virtual reality is not just for games. Yoshida explains why virtual reality is the future in this exclusive interview.
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Fortune: What impact do you feel early mobile devices like Samsung SSNLF Gear VR and Google GOOGL Cardboard will have on introducing consumers to VR before being able to try or buy a PlayStation VR next year?
Shuhei Yoshida: In order to reach out to a broader audience, these mobile-based VR systems—especially the Gear VR—is such a great system to handle the 360-degree video and photos, so that people will have a great experience using these systems. Some of the mobile games are well-designed, even though it’s much more limited compared to high-end systems like PS VR or Oculus or the Vibe. VR is such an experiential system and few people have experienced this before, so it’s great to have these mobile systems that people can carry around and very easily hand to people who are not dedicated tech people to experience video or games.
What challenges does virtual reality open up in getting consumers to understand what the experience is?
It’s going to take time, but the experience is such an impactful one that once one of these high-end systems has a consumer product on the market, a lot more people will start using them at home. There will be a network of these people letting other people, friends, and families, try them at their homes. We’ve been doing the PS VR press demos, as Oculus and HTC HTC have been demoing their systems, but just to 100 to 1,000 people at one time. But even though they are the most dedicated and influential people, they have a difficult time writing about these new experiences. So the best way to spread this new medium is to have people try it and talk about their experiences in their own world. That will hopefully happen very quickly by the end of next year once everything is on the market. Hopefully, lots of people will get excited and spread the word and get other people to try it. I’m optimistic because of the power of the experience.
We’ve seen a lot of Hollywood and other 360-degree video content in the works for VR. What role do you feel nongaming virtual reality will play in the PlayStation VR ecosystem?
It’s going to be very important. I’m a huge fan of the 360-degree videos and experiences that those entertainment companies and new startups are producing. They clearly understand the impact and the power of this new medium. People feel like they are in these experiences at the places that the video was shot instead of watching it remotely from within their console at home. The power of these mediums can be communicated in nongaming form. And actually in many cases it’s better to have these experiences, rather than just games, so that the mass audience will start to notice that, “Wow, this is something that I should be checking out. This is way more than the new form of gaming.” VR could be the new form of learning, or knowing, or understanding the world better. And hopefully VR will improve some people’s health as well. So a lot of people will start to see this tech show up, whether they are looking for it or not. These nongaming applications will play a huge role to help promote all new VR systems.
How might virtual reality introduce brand new gaming genres to the video game market?
It’s a completely new medium and the best of VR games will come out of nowhere, just as games on mobile or other new platforms like Facebook FB emerged. The most successful game companies on these new technology platforms were not established conventional game publishers, but small startups that spent many years focused on making games on this new tech. I expect the same will happen with VR. Hopefully, all of the game industry will develop on this new tech, but the most successful titles will be something that we never thought of in a new IP or a new game that’s focused on great experiences using VR tech.
WATCH: Facebook wants to bring a VR experience to your phone. See how in this Fortune video:
What are your thoughts on the developer support behind PlayStation VR at this early stage?
I believe in VR. We’re seeing developers who couldn’t wait to jump on this to create games. What we’re seeing is smaller teams comprised of very experienced developers. For example, the team behind Golem is comprised of veterans who created Halo. Many others who were making video games really wanted to do this for the longest time, so even though many teams are small and the game might be in a smaller scope, the quality of the experience is great because these people are very experienced developers.