Sony Planning PlayStation VR Demos at GameStop

As we’ve mentioned and time and time again, VR is a really VR sell unless the consumer has a chance to try it. Being told over and over again about VR without a chance to experience it as a new form of content consumption won’t sell many headsets. To combat this, Sony is planning to place their PlayStation VR headsets at many retail locations, mainly GameStop it seems. What’s more, the demo will hit the floor starting June.

Honestly, an in-store demo is pretty much expected as this point. Sony won’t be the only VR vendor as they will be sharing space with the HTC Vive demo units as well. The plan is for GameStop to provide over 500,000 experiences between June and December of this year. According to GameStop, the setup for PlayStation VR is easier, allowing for more units to be set up. This isn’t a surprise as GameStop is used to hosting console demo units while the HTC Vive will require a PC.

Finally, the reveal that PlayStation VR demos will arrive in June is a bit of a surprise. This means Sony plans to have the system all finalized and enough content created by June to start displaying it. To me, this suggests that Sony won’t have production ramped up to meet expected supply till October which is when the headset will officially launch. Given the supply issues facing the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, this is not the lease surprising.

Sony PlayStation VR Will Focus on Seated Play

As the cheapest virtual reality headset, the PlayStation VR has a good chance to shape how many users will see and experience VR for the first time. For this reason, the direction Sony takes with their headset that will launch later this year is something we are watching closely. Unfortunately, it seems that Sony has closed the door on room-scale VR and is choosing to focus on seated virtual experience with their games for now.

In statement Sony gave, they noted that “We have some tech demos that allowed users to play while standing up, however all the PS VR titles we plan to release in the future will recommend that users remain seated. We will announce further details of guidelines or regulations when ready”. Givent he nature of the control Sony has over the PS4, we can expect most developers will have to follow the regulations Sony will set. The few that won’t will be likely targeting the users that got PS VR for their PC.

The reason that PS VR is going to focus on seated play is because the PlayStation Move camera simply can’t track a large enough area. Tracking will likely be limited to a short-range for the head, arms and upper body. This leaves the HTC Vive, with its superior tracking cameras, as the sole provider of large room scale VR. For me, room scale VR seems to be the most exciting part  so it will be interesting to see if developers will focus on that or go the easier route with Sony and Oculus.

Analysts Expect VR to hit $895 Million for 2016

Virtual reality has been hailed as the next ‘thing’ that will catch consumer attention and drive innovation and growth in the technology industry. While it’s easy to see why VR might play out stronger than say 3D, the size of the burgeoning market appears to be massive. According to market analysts, Strategy Analytics, the virtual reality headset market will top $895 million. For an industry that is just really getting started, this is great news.

As expected, much of the value comes from the expensive Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR which are all going to release this year. With prices of $600, $800 and $400 respectively, it’s easy to see why the market is so big. The expectation is that these high-end headsets will account for 77% of the total revenue but only 13% of shipped units. After all, around 2.2 million Sony units would be enough to match the entire market value. Cheaper headsets like those based on smartphones will continue to see more though and be the VR most likely experienced by consumers.Furthermore, Strategy Analytics expects that VR will help drive a race in display resolution, storage and GPUs. This is due to the stringent and hefty requirements necessary to run VR games. Going forward it will be interesting to see what kind of hold VR will take and whether or not it will supplant traditional forms of content interaction.

More PlayStation 4.5 Details Emerge

Following rumours that Sony is working on a 4K version of the PS4 – nicknamed the PlayStation 4.5 – designed to fully exploit the PlayStation VR headset, the Wall Street Journal has effectively confirmed its existence, revealing that the PS4.5 would be released as early as October this year – alongside the PS4, rather than replacing it – and that it would not have any exclusive games or software.

“Existing PlayStation 4 owners would need to buy the new model to take full advantage of the enhanced graphics and power, though it is likely that the current model and the coming one would share the same software catalog,” according to “people familiar with the matter.”

According to the report, Sony would continue production of the standard PlayStation 4, but its presence next to its more powerful cousin would render it more like a budget model of PS4.

The anonymous sources also claim that the PlayStation 4.5 will be announced before the October release of PlayStation VR, meaning that it could be competing for attention with the Nintendo NX at this Summer’s E3 trade fair. If Microsoft gets a move on with its UWP upgrade initiative for Xbox One, 2016 could be pivotal year for the future of consoles, and usher in the death of five-year-plus console cycles.

 

Sony PlayStation VR May Make Its Way to PC

Over the years, there has been some hardware movement from consoles to PC, with things like the Xbox controllers moving over. In what might be the biggest hardware interoperability move, Sony is considering making the PlayStation VR work with PCs. This will allow gamers to use the upcoming VR headset on not only their PS4 but also their PC if they have one.

“Since PlayStation 4 shares a lot of its components with PCs, the possibility is there. At the moment we are focused on games and we are not ready to make any announcements at this stage, but I’d say there will be an expansion into various fields.”

The PlayStation VR currently sits a bit below the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, sporting a lower resolution display. However, the Sony display is significantly cheaper than its competitors and should still allow for an enjoyable VR gaming experience. It also sports a higher refresh rate at 120Hz, more than the usual 90Hz. Furthermore, there will be synergy between the PC and PS4, with users being able to enjoy a VR experience on both platforms with a single purchase.

Furthermore, there will be synergy between the PC and PS4, with users being able to enjoy a VR experience on both platforms with a single purchase. By expanding their potential market without having to do too much extra work, Sony will be able to invest more into VR with relatively lower risk.

PlayStation VR Bundle Sells Out in Four Minutes on Amazon

Yesterday, the 23rd of March, Amazon started taking pre-orders of Sony’s new virtual reality headset, PlayStation VR at 7:01 AM PST. Within just four minutes of the pre-order going live, Amazon had already sold out of its entire allotment of launch bundles. It is unknown how many of the bundles Amazon had available for pre-order, but the bundled unit was certainly more popular than the headset alone.

The PlayStation VR launch bundle is retailing for $499, making it considerably cheaper than the PC’s VR offerings and includes not just the headset, but a number of additional items to enjoy the VR experience at launch. Some of the items in the bundle are two PlayStation Move controllers, a PlayStation 4 camera, a copy of PlayStation VR Worlds as well as all the cables required to make full use of the headset. PlayStation VR Worlds itself is a compilation of a number of top VR games that have been demoed by Sony, such as The London Heist, VR Luge, Scavengers Odyssey, & Into The Deep all on-disk.

Both the headset and the bundle are on-track for a release in November, putting it behind the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but these strong pre-sales of the headset could mean good things for the future of VR on the PlayStation. We may have to wait until the end of the year to truly tell who offers the best VR experience, but if PlayStation VR sales go the same way as the pre-orders, it may be a long while before many can get their hands on one.

Shuhei Yoshida Defends PlayStation VR’s Basic Package

PlayStation VR’s launch price is designed to provide a more affordable entry into virtual reality technology and encourage mainstream audiences to become early adopters. However, many users have criticized Sony for their marketing policy and failure to include the PlayStation Camera with the basic VR bundle. As a result, you cannot use the headset without the camera which increases the price from $400 to $460. Arguably, this hidden cost is similar to Sony’s use of proprietary memory cards on the Vita. Despite these concerns, the President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida explained why the company decided to take this step and told Colin Moriarty and Tim Gettys on Kinda Funny’s PlayStation podcast:

“Yeah, ‘PSVR is not $400 it’s $460!’ Yeah. I saw these comments. [Laughter] Pretty early in the process, we decided to not bundle the camera because we know that many people already own the camera. Especially people who purchased the PS4 in the first year. So those people, if we bundle, as a standard, a camera — another one — you know they would be mad. You know because they can’t do anything with it because the PS4 can only accept one camera. Maybe sell it on eBay or whatever. And the same thing with Move. The camera is required, but we know many people already own it. So we don’t put it in the basic product. This week’s announcement [GDC announcement] for us is to announce the base unit. That’s consistent globally and for people we know…who already own cameras. We don’t want them to spend more money than necessary.”

Honestly, I’m not convinced by this argument because the PlayStation Camera was always an additional extra which didn’t bring anything exciting to existing games. Therefore, I’d be interested in seeing how many people actually own the camera across various regions. Whatever the case, Sony will be releasing other bundles with everything you need to get started.

Valve Has VR Plans for Older Graphics Cards

Are you preparing your PC for the new advent of virtual reality? Well, don’t ditch that GTX 680 just yet. Alex Vlachos, a programmer for Valve, revealed during his GDC 2016 talk in San Francisco last week that the company is looking to lower its minimum spec for HTC Vive VR headset.

“As long as the GPU can hit 45 HZ we want for people to be able to run VR,” Vlachos told UploadVR, following his presentation, entitled Advanced VR Rendering. “We’ve said the recommended spec is a 970, same as Oculus, but we do want lesser GPUs to work. We’re trying to reduce the cost [of VR].”

“I can run Aperture [Valve’s Portal-themed VR demo] on a 680 without dropping frames at a lower quality, and, for me, that’s enough of a proof of concept,” Vlachos said during his talk. “Most art we’re seeing in VR isn’t as dense as that. So we should be pretty good to go…everything should be able to support that low-end hardware. But we need the right safety nets in place.”

The VR market is heating up this year, with pre-orders of the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR going strong, and the imminent release of the Microsoft HoloLens later this month.

Sony to Reject Any PlayStation VR Game That Drops below 60fps

At GDC 2016 this week, during a Sony-sponsored talk on the development of its PlayStation VR headset, Chris Norden, the Senior Dev support Engineer at Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), revealed that any game for the new virtual reality headset that drops below 60 frames-per-second will be immediately rejected.

“Frame rate is really important; you cannot drop below 60 frames per second, ever,” Norden told the GDC audience (via Gamasutra). “If you submit a game to us and it drops to 55, or 51 […] we’re probably going to reject it.”

“I know I’m going to get flak for this, but there’s no excuse for not hitting frame rate,” he added. “It’s really hard, and I’m not going to lie to and say it’s extremely easy […] it’s really difficult.” Norden set down a final marker for developers: “60hz is the minimum acceptable framerate. Everybody drill that into your heads.”

Norden also revealed that PlayStation VR will aim to be inclusive of the new virtual reality ecosystem as a whole, and does not consider the hardware to be a proprietary ‘walled garden,’ saying, “We’re all friends; the VR industry is really small and really tight. The VR industry needs to succeed, and everybody inside of it needs to succeed.”

He also assured gamers that the PlayStation VR will not necessarily require large standing areas in order to play. “If you want to have a small area, if you want your players to be seated, to be standing, that’s okay,” said Norden. “Don’t feel like you’re constricted to just one thing,”

Pre-orders of the PlayStation VR have been booming, with Amazon stores in Europe selling out within minutes on launch day on Wednesday (16th Marrch).

Sony Details PlayStation VR Launch Titles

For a new piece of technology to pick up traction, it’s important to have a decent amount of launch content available. The same is true for VR, especially given the hefty cost of most of the headsets releasing this year. Oculus was the first to detail their launch lineup with a slew of VR ready titles for launch. Not getting left behind, Sony has made known a number of titles which will be launching with PlayStation VR, with 50 more to come between launch and the end of the year as well.

The first up is a series of 5 VR minigames made by Sony in-house as a part of PlayStation VR Worlds. These are The London Heist, Into the Deep, VR Luge, Danger Ball and Scavenger’s Odyssey. One may well expect that these titles may be bundled with the VR headset for sale.

Other titles include Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and Tumble VR from Supermassive Games. Sony Japan Studios will be making The Playroom VR while Guerrilla Cambridge is releasing Rigs. Of these, Rigs is my favourite as who wouldn’t want to battle it out in mech suits in VR? Given the VR requirements though, don’t expect any of these titles to have superb graphics or physics. Even with PlayStation 3/3.5 like graphics, these titles should still be enough to entice earlier VR users to pick up a headset.

 

PlayStation VR Already Sold Out on European Amazon Stores

Pre-orders of the PlayStation VR, Sony’s PlayStation 4-compatible virtual reality headset, were made available this morning, and within minutes Amazon stores in the UK, France, and Germany had sold out.

Following its “out of stock” notice, Amazon UK made a second batch available a few hours later, but limited to one per address. A note on the sales page read (courtesy of DualShockers):

“Due to limited stock we are only able to offer one unit per customer per address. We do not currently have a release date for this product. Based on our initial allocation we cannot guarantee release day delivery if you ordered after 11:45 GMT, Wednesday 16 March, 2016. You will be notified via email of the expected delivery date closer to the time. This product comes with a UK plug and therefore may not be suitable for use outside of the UK.”

The sales page has since changed in the intervening hours. While Amazon is still taking pre-orders, it does so with the following disclaimer, which is a revision of the above note (at time of writing):

“Due to limited stock we are only able to offer one unit per customer per address. We do not currently have a release date for this product. Based on our initial allocation we cannot guarantee release day delivery. You will be notified via email of the expected delivery date closer to the time. We will be fulfilling customer orders in the order in which they were placed. This product comes with a UK plug and therefore may not be suitable for use outside of the UK.”

GAME in the UK is still offering pre-orders, but only in-store and with a £100 deposit:

Sony PlayStation VR to Launch October for $399

Yesterday, the focus of VR news was from AMD with their Capsaicin event and many announcements. Today, Sony is taking their turn and has announced their own VR solution for the PS4, the PlayStation VR. Priced at a relatively moderate $399, the VR headset will also require the PlayStation Move camera in order to work and may require PlayStation Move controllers as well, making the final cost higher to just under $500.

Originally announced as Project Morpheus, the VR headset was previously expected to launch in the first half of 2016 so this October launch constitutes a few months delay. The headset has a  5.7″, 120 Hz OLED display with a 100-degree field of view, running at 1920 x 1080 resolution (960 x 1080 per eye). This is somewhat lower than the 2160 x 1200 resolution the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift sport but it does have a higher refresh rate.

Even at $500, the PlayStation VR has a lower cost of entry compared to the $599 for the Oculus Rift and $799 for HTC Vive. The requirements to run the PC based solutions also cost more, with the graphics card required like the R9 390/GTX 970 costing nearly as much as the PS4 alone. The PC solutions will probably have better graphics fidelity, though.

Finally, Sony revealed that 230 developers are already lined up and working on content for the PlayStation VR. For what it’s worth, Sony also revealed that they have sold 36 million PS4s to date.

 

Sony Files Patent for a Glove-Like Controller

The Powerglove is one of the most infamous peripherals in gaming history, slated for being both imprecise and hard to use. 27 years later, it looks like Sony is taking a shot at the same kind of controller, as patent filings by Sony have been found that cover a “glove interface object” for use in controlling VR environments without the need for a traditional controller. The system includes a finger-tracking flex sensor, a contact sensor that can detect when a user touches a physical object and communications systems to allow it to interface with a VR headset.

Of course, Sony already have a motion tracking controller that can be used with the Playstation VR system, Playstation Move, which was released back in 2010. This new system even evokes some memory of the Move in the supplied diagrams of the system, including an illuminated “trackable object” attached to the wrists similar to the glowing ball attached to the Move. These systems take it one step further, however, allowing users to interact with both physical and virtual objects more intuitively than the Move, where the hand was restricted to grasping the controller while the filing for this new technology states that “users collaborating may use their gloves to touch objects, move objects, interface with surfaces, press on objects, squeeze objects, toss objects, make gesture actions or motions, or the like.”

This patent is far from new, either, as while it was only published by the US Patent and Trademark Office last week, the date of the original filing was October 17, 2014, quite soon after Sony unveiled the PlayStation VR as Project Morpheus. Of course, while this does mean that Sony has had plenty of time to develop the system alongside PlayStation VR, there is no guarantee if or when it will be realized. It would be great to see whether Sony can realize the potential that the Powerglove promised so many years ago and with so much of the industry focusing on VR right now, we can only hope it happens.

Kojima Visits LittleBigPlanet Dev Media Molecule

Kojima is currently on a worldwide tour in order to search for the newest technology. So far we have seen him drop in for a visit to popular director JJ Abrams in order to discuss the new Kojima studios. Monday saw Kojima in London, dropping by Sony’s London Studio as well as Media Molecule, the developers behind LittleBigPlanet.

At the Sony London Studio, Kojima tried out a number of undisclosed PlayStation VR games, one of which is thought to be The London Heist. Kojima’s travelling partner, PS4 lead system architect Mark Cerny caught a snap of Kojima using the PlayStation VR. The background of the shot was blurred out due to containing part of the plan for the London Studio team’s next VR experience. Again, what Kojima saw at Media Molecule is also left up to speculation. One possibility is the Surrey studio’s upcoming PS4 title, Dreams, which allows players to sculpt complex character models using the Playstation Move.

What we do know for certain is what Kojima ate that day, the developer providing a number of shots of his cuisine haggis lunch at Media Molecule and his distinctly less exciting breakfast juice.

Where Kojima will show up next on his world trip is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure it will be full of his characteristically amusing tweets and perhaps more pictures of his meals. Stop back for more coverage when he makes his next appearance.

Amazon Launches Virtual Reality Hub

Virtual Reality is often described as the future of home entertainment and could revolutionize the way we watch films, play games and engage in other pastimes. Since the advent of the Oculus VR development kit, other manufacturers have seen the potential for VR technology and decided to produce alternatives. As a result, VR is the current trend and received a great deal of media attention. While competition in the marketplace is great news, it can be overwhelming for consumers wanting to know the key differences between various products. Recently, Oculus unveiled the $599 retail launch price for the Rift which left some users extremely disappointed and felt it offered poor value. Thankfully, there are cheaper options but the pricing of HTC’s Vive and PlayStation VR is still unknown.

On another note, data from a study conducted during the Game Developers Conference indicates the amount of devs working on VR projects has increased from seven percent in 2015, to 16 percent in 2016. This is a marked increased and presumably, many studios are waiting to see the impact of VR before making any games built around the technology. As you might expect, 2016 will be the year when VR begins to enter retail channels and consumers finally get their hands on the polished models.

To help customers make a more informed decision, Amazon has launched a Virtual Reality Hub which contains videos about VR devices including the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift as well as a detailed FAQ describing everything you need to know about Virtual Reality. This section is written quite well and answers questions about the UK release date, costs, health implications and VR gaming. If you’re still unsure about the VR concept, it’s worth checking out to see what the furore is all about! Furthermore, you can set up e-mail notifications when more information arises about each product. I’d imagine this means Amazon will be a stockist of the main hardware launches and secure a good amount of units.

More Battlezone Remake Details Revealed During Paris Game Week

Battlezone is a classic from all the way back in 1980 and the announcement during the E3 2015 that a remake of the VVR arcade game would come got fans all around excited. Virtual reality is the next big thing in gaming and this title is perfect for this.

It will be among the launch titles for PlayStation VR, but it will also be made available for Oculus Rift users as WCCF tech learned during the Paris Game Week. There is no doubt that a game like this launching together with the PlayStation VR will give a boost to both sides.

In virtual reality, you need smooth gameplay more than ever before and Rebellion is targeting a 60 FPS native frame rate that gets a bump to 120 FPS via reprojection. When it comes to controlling the game, the company is focusing on the DualShock 4 controller for now and not the PlayStation Move controllers. They have been prototyping with them but found that the normal controller was a better fit for the game. Future implementation of the Move controllers isn’t ruled out, but it isn’t a focus right now.

There will be most likely be a multiplayer mode as hinted through the use of the Asura engine that is focused on networking and multiplayer technology, but also a campaign mode with lots of replayability. With PlayStation VR set for a launch in the first half of 2016, we can expect Battlezone to launch at the same time. Other VR devices such as the HTC Vive might be supported in the future, allowing pretty much anyone with a VR set to play this game the way it’s meant to be played.

Battlezone is a VR title coming first to PlayStation 4 and then later on Steam for PC [TBC], however Rebellion has always been a multi-platform developer and we’re looking into other platforms too. While we can’t confirm anything yet don’t be surprised if we add to this list in the future,” said Tim Jones, Head of Creative at Rebellion. “We’ve already confirmed support for both PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift , but we are looking at the potential of other VR platforms too – though we can’t confirm anything right now.”

PlayStation VR Could Cost More Than a PS4 Console

PlayStation VR, formerly known as Project Morpheus will be priced “as a new gaming platform” according to Sony’s CEO, Andrew House. While a specific price wasn’t mentioned, it’s possible the device will cost more than a PlayStation 4 give the console’s age. If I had to estimate a figure, PlayStation VR could retail around the $350-450 mark which is a massive investment and bound to deter many console gaming fans. In an interview with Bloomberg, House said:

“VR rewrites the rule book on how you can create games,”

“You’re seeing a large amount of interest and work happening among smaller teams, because it’s possible to create something in VR that is very simple but still very magical.”

Apparently, the device will be bundled with 10 games, which could help shift units and make the headset appear a more valuable proposition. Another question to take into account is, does the PS4 have enough power to cope with virtual reality? I highly doubt it as a GTX 980 is recommended for the Oculus Rift to function optimally. Whatever the case, it seems like the PlayStation VR headset will be very expensive, and I’m not entirely sure console players will pay so much for something that could be perceived as an accessory.

Thank you Bloomberg for providing us with this information.

Sony’s Project Morpheus Receives a New Name

There are quite a few large companies out there that are currently working on their own virtual reality headsets. As far as Sony is concerned, its Project Morpheus has just received a brand new name, which is definitely catchier: PlayStation VR. The name change was announced by the Japanese company during the Tokyo Game Show press conference, where Sony’s representatives also revealed that the hardware would be available to try on the show floor.

The PlayStation VR will compete with other similar headsets such as Vive, which is being developed by Valve and HTC. Facebook’s Oculus Rift also deserves a mention, of course, as does the Microsoft HoloLens and the Samsung Gear VR. The PlayStation VR will boast some impressive specs at launch. Its current version features a 5.7-inch OLED display with a refresh rate of 120 Hz, as well as nine LEDs that ensure proper positional awareness. Sony has yet to reveal an exact release date for its virtual reality headset, but one of its previous statements pointed to 2016.

https://twitter.com/PlayStation/status/643702399492722689/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Are you looking forward to Sony’s PlayStation VR, and if so, do you think that it will be better than its rivals?

Thank you TheVerge for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wearable.