"The beauty of PSVR is that we have the PS4 to power it"
Sony's Michael Denny on PlayStation's crucial advantage in the coming battle for VR supremacy
Paris Games Week saw Sony make up for its absence at Gamescom with a press conference brimming with content, both comfortingly familiar and the bracingly new. Sorely needed exclusives like No Man's Sky and Street Fighter 5 received firm release dates, there were new games from Quantic Dream and Housemarque, and extra helpings of stalwarts like Gran Turismo and Tekken. Those who felt that the PlayStation 4 lacked the games to justify the incredible sales were given much to celebrate.
However, anyone expecting specific details about the launch of PSVR will have left disappointed. Despite Sony having what many believe to be a crucial advantages over its most prominent competitors, both the release date and the price remain a mystery. In this exclusive interview, SCE Worldwide Studios VP Michael Denny responds to the lack of solid information at this late stage, and just how decisive those 25 million PlayStation 4's might prove to be.
We've seen some great games on show for virtual reality here. but scant details of the hardware. What's the delay behind the pricing and dating of PSVR? Is it fear of being first to market?
I think the place to start with PSVR is that we want to bring the best possible experiences to PlayStation fans. That starts with bringing great games to the system, but also great experiences.
VR is so exciting that we feel compelled, those of us who've dreamt about VR for such a long time, and now that it's available, we want to deliver that to PlayStation fans. What we want to do is bring that to shows like this, and the shows we've done over the last year or so, and let people try it. I think the people who do try it get how exciting those experiences are. That's the starting point for us and I believe it will be extremely exciting when it arrives.
But it's not a production issue?
We're talking about launching a new system next year, we'll get it right and deliver the best experience.
"We're talking about launching a new system next year, we'll get it right and deliver the best experience"
Getting VR into the hands of the public is hard. You have a great install base, P&P capacity, a direct gaming audience. Do you agree with the analysts who have predicted that you'll be the winners in this round of VR as a result?
What we expect is to be able to deliver a fantastic PSVR experience to our customers and consumers and you mention a lot of reasons there that I absolutely buy into. We have a large installed base of keen gamers who we know want to try these new experiences, and we have a plug and play system.
I agree with you as well that there'll be a massive word of mouth aspect to the marketing. While there are lots of gameplay experiences, there are also things like The Deep - you can put your mum in that. I've yet to see someone take the headset off and not have a big reaction to it, a good reaction.
I think the main thing when you're looking at something new is, 'Is it a genuinely differentiated and great experience?' And this is.
You seem to not want to tack it on to existing games, preferring a dedicated approach.
We've not been prescriptive in the kinds of experiences that we want. We leave that in the hands of the developers, our creators, always. When they get their hands on this they want to develop something from the ground up that's dedicated to the new system, dedicated to what's different about it [compared] to the normal PS4 games. That said, we've got a prototype working of DriveClub in VR, which adds a new dimension to an existing game. So I think you will get developers, studios and publishers playing with new experiences and translating existing ones.
Sony completed the acquisition of the Softkinetic sensor firm earlier this year. Will Move and PlayStation Eye evolve before/after PSVR's release as a result?
I think that the beauty of PSVR is that we have the PS4 to power it, we have tried and tested input devices and controllers that work fantastically well. I think the experiences we're showing off are a testament to that. At the moment we're really pleased with the ecosystem we have for VR.
The PS4 price drop is worldwide now, how will that affect sales?
I don't think there's a better time to buy into PlayStation - PS4 particularly. Our installed base now is well over 25 million. That gives us a massive community of gamers, supported by a lot of new community features. We've got great games out there, more coming through. We're looking forward to 2016, it's an exciting time.
The Vita was conspicuous in its absence at the conference and on the show floor. Have we seen the last of it at shows and conferences?
"We have a large installed base of keen gamers who we know want to try these new experiences, and we have a plug and play system"
PlayStation Vita is still a fantastic handheld gaming device, and I think the people who have it still continue to use it and talk about it. There's a great catalogue of AAA games out there for Vita already and there's going to be new indie and creative titles coming through for Vita as well. Plus, with remote play, there's still a place for Vita in the PlayStation ecosystem.
Can you give us an update on PlayStation Now. How did the launch go?
It's still early days. We've gone from the subscription to the beta, and there's now the three day trial in the UK as well. I think we always want to give people choice in how they consume our content, and PlayStation Now is a great way of doing that.
What about bringing a wider slate of games to the world? Sony used to celebrate the weird. There hasn't been much of that in this generation so far.
What I think we want is to bring the widest slate of content for the widest possible audience. What struck me about the conference last night was the great array of creativity and diversity of creators that we had on stage: from Japan, from the US, from France, from the UK. I think that's something we'll always be massive advocates of. PlayStation fans are the beneficiaries of that.
Will Paris Games Week be something you support at this scale every year?
It's great to be here. The main point is that Europe as a territory is fantastically important to us and we're always going to do a big press conference in Europe every year. We're lucky in that there are so many great games shows to choose from and this year that choice was Paris, which has been fantastic. Previously, it's been Gamescom, which has also been fantastic. There are no decisions yet on where we'll be next year.
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