Back on the VR beat tonight.

Sony recently made a very interesting move. As a test project, they are sending anyone a PSVR set to try. For a deposit of $299 U.S. they will send you a VR bundle with all the controllers and a copy of the newest killer game, Skyrim VR.

I think Sony is ready to try and push VR in a big way finally. Let’s go to the board.

When I posted this last time, it was to show where VR was sitting in 2016-17. Right in the slope of enlightenment. Allow me to translate.  It’s the “Oh-yeah-my-cousin-has-one-it’s-pretty-cool-you-should-check-it-out” phase.

What the moves Sony has been making of late could push the tech into the plateau of productivity. They have the muscle and the pockets to take a loss on 10 million bundles, to get VR into households.

They started carefully – but the moves in the last few weeks convinces me theyare looking at a big push – they have confidence in this market and want to be the default platform.

Reaching the Plateau

If VR is accepted enough and accessible enough, it will become part of the gaming ecosystem. Moving from part of a fringe market to something everyone uses as a matter of course. Sony would have to be confident their software is engaging enough that anyone trying it would be hooked.

Well, they got one. Skyrim VR is an amazing experience (see my pocket review).Sony knows what they have on their hands and they made it the centrepiece of their latest marketing test.

If they expand this test its a clear sign they want to get these headsets into the hands of people asap. They’ve even done a minor hardware revision to tweak a few user issues and solve some tech problems 99% of people will never notice.

You get a PSVR, and YOU get a PSVR!

This new test bundle program is such a no-brainer its no surprise the first batch of test systems were snapped up in an hour (1,400 units), and I suspect retention rates will be in the 60-70 per cent.  A $299 price point is 40% discount off MSRP and the additional hassle of shipping the gear back throws in a surprisingly high percentage of sales.

The success of this test makes me think Sony is testing the waters on a new strategy for it’s VR bundle. Oculus and Vive have already dropped. Change the hardware into a loss-leader.

this is something most console makers already do. With the exception of Nintendo, who is famous for making money on its hardware, Microsoft and Sony expect to lose money on their newest consoles, until economies of scale, manufacturing improvements, etc. bring the price down.

The difference is Sony has the resources to literally give these things away to everyone if they wanted to. If they believe the market is ready, well – They could really move aggressively.

The Backstory

When the headset launched, Sony was tentative, and demand outstripped production initially.

With what amounted to mostly tech demos for the first six months, 2017 saw what looked like a bust on VR for every platform. Then something changed for Sony’s strategy. I think it was the reaction to Resident Evil 7. Released last year, Sony noticed the game was driving sales of the headset. It was very scary and the first true AAA game you could experience exclusively in the PSVR.

I think that’s when Sony realized their opportunity. 1. – the headset could drive game sales, and 2. the right game would drive headset sales. There’s nothing sweeter than a virtuous cycle. The final leg of the stool was Skyrim and DOOM for VR.

Pocket Review – Skyrim VR: Is this game the paradigm shift claimed? I’ve personally spent a few hours with it. Holy *$&@) it totally is. I literally have to set an alarm on my watch or I wander the landscape for hours, fighting monsters and being rude to passerby. No less than three friends have gone out and bought a PSVR after playing. 5/5 Gurus

Both of these games saw huge pre-orders and crazy reaction from fans. What Sony saw were hugely successful older games, re-developed at the fraction of the cost of building a game from the ground up. The VR versions won’t even eat into other version sales – they are totally different experiences.

Now it’s a no-brainer to get this game with this system into the hands of as many people as possible. Everyone understands how to swing a sword and I swear, the first time you see that dragon yell in your face….

The Future Conan?

If Sony is serious about this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see two things in the short term – 1. an expanded ‘TryPSVR’ program. 2. another major title like a ‘Grand Theft Auto’ or ‘Red Dead Redemption’. (N.b. Fallout 4, a huge seller, is a VR exclusive for the Vive. I expect it to come to PSVR at the same time Skyrim is released for the Vive in a swap)

Microsoft has abandoned VR in favour of AR and HoloLens. Vive is technically superior but needs a full room and relatively expensive PC gear to run. Oculus is the grandpappy, but it’s legal woes and software library makes it the bronze medalist here.

If Sony does pull the trigger, the VR market will move into the next phase. A floating tide lifts all boats, and 2018 will be the VR year we were promised in 2016.

Postscript: Peak Hype Alert!

I want to close out by pointing you to this little gem. This takes all the gasbaggiest hype and blows it up to the next level. I am told VR and Cannabis is a match made in heaven, but I don’t believe this is what they had in mind.

This partnership gives Future Farm Technologies exclusive use of a cutting edge AR product called ‘CannaCube’. OoooOooo.  Sounds cool. Even if it’s not vaporware, what practical value does the product have other than melding two hot market segments.

In what possible future are consumers going to put on their AR glasses to scroll through virtual bud. The privacy and tracking implications alone are staggering. I’ll give them credit for finding a way to differentiate themselves from the pack.

If all publicity is good publicity, then awesome – otherwise, you look a little silly, Future Farm Technologies.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not own stock in any companies above. I paid for and own a PSVR, I do not have a PS4 Pro yet, and could really use one for my research.

[We are not buying you a PlayStation. -Editor]

Written By:

Stephan Herman

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Cannabis VR
virtual reality
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