Taking VR to the masses - The launch of PSVR

Christopher Dring
Taking VR to the masses - The launch of PSVR

PlayStation's UK group marketing manager Tom Whitaker discusses the company's plans for the launch of the VR headset, and its potential once it is in consumers' hands.

Who do you see buying PlayStation VR? Is it primarily core gamers, or could it go mainstream?

There's definitely interest in PlayStation VR outside of our core fan base but, as with any new platform launch, we expect that the majority of VR headsets will be picked up by those who bought their PlayStation 4 early on in the lifecycle – at least at launch. We do think though, especially given the price, range of games at launch, the ease of use and the number of PS4 owners out there, that PlayStation VR will cross over into the mainstream.

What's the launch strategy for the hardware?

The main thing we've learned as we've planned for PSVR is that getting the headset into the hands of players is fundamental, as this is the only way to really understand the power of PlayStation VR and what it adds to the players' gaming experience. Our Future of Play Tour kicks off this month, and we very much see this as being a series of regional launch events taking place across the country.

You have a sizeable launch line-up. What games or game do you expect will be the most popular to begin with?

PlayStation VR Worlds is a brilliant introduction to the power of PlayStation VR and it's thrilling to be able to get that to people – it contains a number of the experiences we've been using to showcase PSVR and was developed here in London. Battlezone and RIGS are also fantastic showcases of how full games have a natural home on PlayStation VR. We're also thrilled to have such strong third party support and we expect the likes of Batman: Arkham VR to do really well – who wouldn't want to be the Dark Knight? Given the number of titles available before the end of the year, though, there really is going to be something to satisfy a broad range of tastes.

Going back to the marketing campaign, what else can we expect?

Trial is really our focus. You can only do so much by telling people how good the experience is, so we'll be getting as many people as we can playing PlayStation VR in September and October. Of course, we need to make sure that we can amplify these trial experiences to those who can't make it to the Future of Play Tour, so that will be another significant focus of the digital activity, as well as using our own channels like PlayStation Access to demonstrate what it's like to play a range of titles. We'll also be showcasing a range of the well-known and new IP available on PS VR in a launch asset worthy of the new tech.

How will you be positioning VR this Christmas? Will it be the major PlayStation product, the must have Christmas item? Or is it going to be 2017 when you expect the momentum to really begin?

Our campaign this year will focus on The Future of Play, which represents a number of PlayStation products, all of which we see as must haves for certain audiences. There's never been a more exciting time for PlayStation hardware buyers, whether they're picking up our best value ever PS4, enjoying the benefits PS4 Pro brings to owners of HD and 4K TVs alike, or taking on a new way to play with PlayStation VR.

Our guiding principle with the launch of any PlayStation product has always been one that it's for the players, and it's our most dedicated fans that we expect to pick up PlayStation VR this year. Once our mainstream audience starts to hear first-hand how much fun PlayStation VR is and once they perceive it as a proven piece of technology, then that's when we expect it to really gain traction.

"PlayStation VR has been tipped as the device
that will bring VR to the masses and we are in a strong position
to turn this prediction into a reality."

Tom Whitaker, PlayStation


What are you expecting to see once consumers get hands on with the headsets and its software?

This has already started, in terms of how players have reacted whenever we've demoed the hardware. The response, across a range of software, has been overwhelmingly positive, and we'd expect this to continue as the range of software grows post-launch, with the likes of Farpoint and Resident Evil 7. When people take off the headset for the first time, there really is a genuine sense of amazement about what they've experienced, which is great to see and shows how immersive the PlayStation VR experience is. It will also be interesting to see how PlayStation VR titles go down on Twitch. Watching a 2D stream won't replicate the experience of VR but we're sure people will try and explain the experience as best they can.

How do you think PlayStation VR fits within the wider VR industry?

PlayStation VR has been tipped by a number of experts as the device that will bring VR to the masses and given the strength of the offering – the number of titles out this year, the price, the install base and the ease of the use – we think that we are in a strong position to turn this prediction into a reality.

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