Sony: For VR to make progress people who make content have to make money
Find out why Shuhei Yoshida hasn't taken his Morpheus headset home just yet
In part two of our interview with Sony Computer Entertainment's president of Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida we turn our attention from software to hardware and the Morpheus virtual reality headset. Yoshida updates us on the increased developer activity, the collaboration required to stop the dreaded motion sickness and why he doesn't have a headset at home just yet.
Q: This year E3 seemed to be all about the big games again, especially for Sony. Is that a strategic decision for you?
Shuhei Yoshida: That's our perfect simple strategy. GDC has new hardware, E3 is games. The games have always been in development, but our teams and software teams, we ask them to target E3 because GDC was a time when we barely had the working hardware. There was only a small number of hardware units so we had to pick and choose a small number of teams in London Studio and Japan Studio to get their games running. We knew we couldn't support any other teams.
But we knew that after GDC we could mass produce this unit in time for E3 so that's how we are targeting different events. By Paris Games Week, the next big event, and by TGS after that, I'd expect more games will be shown on Morpheus.
Q: So there are more Morpheus developer kits in the wild now?
Shuhei Yoshida: Yes, that's how you see 20 games at E3. Actually we had to turn down some of the submissions for E3 so more than 20 submissions were already there. And more devs are working on games for TGS. The teams are having a very very easy time to transition from last year's model to this year's model as well as from Oculus to Morpheus. So because Oculus is available and the DK2s are available in abundance devs have been working on content for PC and for Oculus. Many, especially small teams, use middleware like Unity and Unreal and these work really, really well in terms of porting games from PC with Oculus to PS4 and Morpheus.
One dev said it took them two days to get the PC game running on Morpheus and other teams say similar things, a week to get it running on PS4.
Q: Sony has always worked closely with indie developers, but are you having to provide more practical support and guidelines because you're dealing with essentially a new medium?
Shuhei Yoshida: In terms of making sure the experience wouldn't make people sick. That's the one single important thing we need to work more closely with devs on than we do with console games. Everyone goes through this learning process, including our own first party teams. The simplest thing that the developers implement may make you totally crazy sick, like sudden camera movement, so even devs working for years on VR still have that. The danger is that people get acclimatised, you get used to using Morpheus or using VR so devs use it everyday, they have no idea what they're making would do to other people. It's a danger.
The good thing is people will get better at using VR experiences as they use it more. I couldn't play Doom when it came out but now I can play an FPS, people get used to it. The same things will happen but the danger is that the first time people try it is the most sensitive time. It's really crucial that devs do play tests with people who never tried VR.
That's how we have to share our knowledge and know how and extend some support. And getting performance, Morpheus runs at 120 frames per second and in order for a game to run at 120fps for Morpheus you need to at least get your game to run at 60fps constantly. So that's a minimal technical requirement and for some devs some optimisation might be necessary.
"We still have work to do to know exactly the cost of goods and so on"
Q: Why has no one announced a price for their headset yet? Are you waiting for someone else to go first?
Shuhei Yoshida: We are talking about launching next year so typically we don't talk about pricing one year ahead of time. I think we announced the price of PS4 at E3 the year of the launch so that's five months before the launch. So it's too early. It's not like we are waiting for Oculus to announce their price. We still have work to do to know exactly the cost of goods and so on.
Q: Microsoft recently sneaked into the virtual reality market by partnering with Oculus to provide controllers. Were you surprised by that move?
Shuhei Yoshida: [Phil] Spencer's appearance at their conference was a surprise but Microsoft provide the OS, Windows, for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift so if you're making headsets you really want to work closely with the OS companies.
We don't have to do it because we make our own OS, but every millisecond counts, like John Carmack talks about, so it's just natural that they work together closely. Microsoft publicly in the past was saying, like the PR line was, 'we don't know about VR' but now they are positive so I think that's good for everyone.
Q: The industry is fully behind VR, but what does your research tell you consumers are saying about it? Are more people aware of it outside the industry?
Shuhei Yoshida: I hope more people have had a chance to try GEAR VR, for example, and some of the videos. A couple of weeks ago I visited Chris Milk's company called VRSE. They've done amazing documentaries, like a Syrian camp in Jordan where he worked with the United Nations to show how it is to stand in the camp with the refugees. It's very touching. Another one he showed was the New York Times cover story, how a photographer and immigrant came to New York and focused on one person, another immigrant, to shoot him as a cover of the magazine. That whole process was shown in 360 video.
So these are great videos being made and these things can be enjoyed by anyone so I totally believe that the panorama videos could be super important for Morpheus as well. Not everyone in the household is a gamer so when you have to spend more money to buy it you want to have your family on your side, and non-gaming content is perfect.
"For VR as an industry to make progress people who make content have to make money"
Q: So will PlayStation commission any video content for Morpheus? Exclusives for the platform?
Shuhei Yoshida: No. Videos work with everyone and for VR as an industry to make progress, people who make content have to make money. I want companies like VRSE to be able to recoup from as many platforms as possible, and that's their business plan as well. We just want to make sure that their content and other companies content works really really well on Morpheus. Because PS4 is powerful hardware and Morpheus runs at 120fps, so the video watching experience can be much better than the mobile experience, for example. So that's what we want to do, make sure we are providing enough technical support for that to happen but we don't feel the need to make non-gaming content by ourselves or fund them.
Q: So do you have the Morpheus at home? Do you get it out for dinner parties?
Shuhei Yoshida: I know some developers do that for one, as a play test and for another just to brag about it. I don't do that. I'm so conservative, I'm timid about bringing something I'm working on to home and if they don't like it I'd be devastated. So I wait until the thing is near final so I'm sure they will… especially I'm talking about my daughters, so I want to make sure that they will have an amazing, great experience. So I'm waiting.
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