How Sony Plans to Incorporate Virtual Reality Into Its Movie Business

June 28, 2016, 8:04 PM UTC
Sony's PlayStation VR
Sony's PlayStation VR
Jonathan Vanian

Virtual reality isn’t all fun and games for Sony.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, the U.S. entertainment subsidiary of Sony Corporation, is doubling down on virtual reality initiatives by appointing an executive to a new role specifically tied to creating virtual reality content for the company’s motion picture group.

Jake Zim, who was previously the senior vice president of digital marketing, will become the senior vice president of virtual reality, according to this week’s announcement. Zim previously worked on VR marketing for the company’s films, including a recent VR promotion for the new Ghostbusters movie coinciding with its release.

Sony (SNE) noted in the announcement that Zim will develop a “slate of narrative VR content for the motion picture group,” but did not elaborate on what that content will be. Presumably, it will involve more marketing promotions similar to what it created for Ghostbusters.

“Sony is in a unique position to shape the VR landscape with its assets in entertainment, gaming, and technology,” said Tom Rothman, chairman of the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, in a statement. “Jake has the background and expertise to help us develop innovative narrative content in this exciting new medium.”

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The move is noteworthy because Sony’s VR initiatives have generally centered around video games and its PlayStation media console. Sony said in mid-June that it’s new virtual reality headset that connects to the PlayStation 4 console will go on sale for $399 on October 13.

Sony announced the launch date during the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, commonly known as E3, where it showcased a slew of new VR video games, including ones for the Star Wars and Batman franchises.

It makes sense for Sony to develop both VR video games and films if it wants to popularize its upcoming VR headset. The lack of VR media for headsets like the Facebook (FB) Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Sony’s yet-to-be release headset makes it less compelling for consumers to want to spend big bucks on cutting-edge gadgetry.

That’s partly why companies such as Sony are trying to sow the seeds of VR content in whatever way they can. HTC, for example, created a $100 million startup fund dedicated to anything related to VR, including media.

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IMAX also wants in on the VR action, declaring in May that it will open virtual reality hubs in several U.S. cities where consumers can partake in so-called “VR experiences” lasting approximately 10 minutes and costing $7 to $10 per visit. IMAX also hinted that Hollywood director Michael Bay and Paramount Pictures could potentially create VR films for the upcoming entertainment hubs.

“We are in advanced discussions with IMAX now on some fun VR concepts and I look forward to test-driving their new technology,” director Michael Bay said in a statement at the time.

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