The Launch Window
• Sony hopes to release Morpheus before the end of fiscal year 2014 (which ends on March 31, 2015). However, they are much further along than people realize and were initially targeting a Fall 2014 release. The prototype Sony showed yesterday, as advanced as it is, was fairly close to the one they were planning to debut at Gamescom last august. There were some minor adjustments made to the LED positioning and there is a slightly improved screen in this prototype but the two prototypes were otherwise identical. They decided against showing the prototype last year because they wanted more time to nail down the software and because they didn't want to take focus off the PS4's launch.
The Device's Name
• The final name won't be Morpheus. The device doesn't have a name yet but is likely to be named with an evocative action verb akin to Move, Play, Create and Share. According to my source, View (as in Playstation View and PSView ) are two that are often thrown around internally. But he also added that its way too early for them to settle on a name and it may very well might end up being named some other verb like Focus, See, Experience, Imagine, Live, Immerse or something entirely different like Vision all of which he has heard people suggest.
The Target Price
• Sony is internally targeting a price of $250-$299 with a camera bundled, and they are planning to subsidize the cost of the device in order to achieve this price tag. Later in the conversation, he noted some reservations he has about this target price. Sony invested a substantial amount in R&D for this device for the past several years.
The Games (Many Titles in Development)
• Sony's first party studios are working on some absolutely fantastic VR experiences. The Last of Us, God of War and Drive Club are being built into brand new VR experiences from the ground up. I mentioned that Drive Club was supposed to be a PS+ free game and he told me that Drive Club will be a traditional game but will also have a dedicated VR component with pared back but nevertheless very impressive graphics. According to my source, Sony feels that while these known franchises are what will drive gamers to first make the leap over to VR, entirely unique and engaging experiences are what will demonstrate to gamers what VR offers over traditional gaming. Guerrilla Games is working on a unique first person Adventure RPG built from the ground up for VR and Sucker Punch once they wrapped up work on Infamous started work on something VR related.
• Sony wants to bring VR to the masses by offering up VR experiences that are both revolutionary and very accessible, plug and play and with a very simple to use interface that require absolutely no technical knowledge to set up or use. And they want to launch the device with VR software unlike anything people have ever experienced before. This is a major area of focus for Sony's R&D and internal development studios.
• There is a lot of amazing software they are keeping under wraps. They even have an interface designed specifically for VR that they are keeping under wraps. Some of the VR software that Sony's internal teams are working on, (examples he mentioned include virtual tourism through various places and to different eras in human history, space exploration, deep sea exploration and a VR oriented take on PlayStation Home) aren't really games in the traditional sense and are designed to be immersive VR experiences that have more broad appeal beyond just traditional gamers.
• Sony is also worried about public perception that VR is an isolative antisocial experience. They are working on a collection of asymmetric multiplayer games, some of which are sports, and some of which are entirely new experiences (Note: Nintendo Land is what came to my mind when my source said asymmetric multiplayer, when I asked if this was anything like Nintendo Land, he said that two of the asymmetric games share some elements in common with Mario Chase and Metroid Blast but the others are very unique experiences and VR adds a whole new dimension to them).
• As if the above information didn't make it clear, he specifically told me that Sony is a huge believer in the possibilities that immersive VR. They've long felt that once the technology becomes feasible, VR experiences (games, virtual tourism, edutainment) could be as big an industry as movies and traditional games are today. They want to be at the frontier of this new industry the same way they were with CDs, and with personal music players when they launched the Sony Walkman. They feel that if properly executed, VR will have more mass appeal than any game console in history and with much longer legs (presumably this was a reference to the Wii) because it offers something that simply hasn't been possible before. Sony feels that without them entering the market with an easy to use, closed box, plug and play VR experience, it will take some time before VR ventures beyond PC enthusiasts and the technically adept. He said that Sony has been investing very heavily in VR in order to make immersive VR accessible to the masses at large.
• The PS4's internal architecture, the Playstation Camera, and the Dualshock 4 (both the lightbar and touchpad) were designed from the outset with VR in mind. Like the PS1 with CDs, the PS2s with DVDs, the PS3 with Blurays, the PS4 was designed to make VR mainstream. Even the HMZ releases were designed to recoup some of their early R&D costs while improving upon the early headset designs. All VR games will be required to support both the Dualshock 4 controller and the Move Controller. The advantages of doing this include not needing to bundle Move controllers in with the headset and allowing gamers to transition to VR using a controller they are familiar with.
• The Morpheus will not be PC compatible in the near future. Sony needs to recoup the substantial investments they are making with PS4 VR game sales and get hardware costs down before they consider adding PC support. More importantly, Sony feel there are significant advantages to a walled garden (Apple-like) approach when you are introducing a brand new device to the masses. Thanks to the PS4, Sony controls every aspect of their VR experiences, both the software and hardware and their VR software can target one unified set of specifications. Sony plans to leverage this to deliver truly mind blowing and immersive VR experiences that perform smoothly and consistently.
• Sony is positioning the VR headset as sometime quite distinct from the PS4. They want the PS4 to be the place where gamers go for cutting edge mainstream games and the VR+PS4 combo to be the place to go for anyone interested in rich immersive VR experiences even if they don't have the technical knowledge necessary to get something like the Oculus Rift up and running.
• Sony wants to avoid creating the impression among gamers that the PS4 needs a VR headset to be a worthwhile purchase. This is one reason why they decided against launching the VR headset this year. They want to give the PS4 lots of breathing room, release a rich lineup of dedicated games for it this holiday season and maintain the PS4's momentum as the go to console for gamers even if they aren't interested in VR. It sounded like Sony feared that focusing too strongly on VR this early in the PS4′s life could drive away some gamers and hurt their momentum going into the holiday season
• In essence, Sony plans to fully and significantly support two unique and distinct platforms, a dedicated cutting edge gaming console, and a brand new plug and play VR platform that offers unique tailored immersive experiences unlike anything anyone has experienced before. This is partly why Sony is working so hard to bring in more indie developers to their platform, because they feel these indie developers will help them successfully support and nurture both platforms
• Another reason why Sony decided against launching the device this year is (and the reason they chose to unveil the device at GDC) is because they wanted to get indie developers on board early. They know that a large lineup of captivating VR experiences at launch gives the device the best chance of success, and they are actually positioned to do just that. They have a substantial amount of internal software being developed to launch along the VR headset. But they want indies on board to fill in gaps, offer up unique experiences that didn't even occur to them, and help ensure a steady stream of VR experiences following the launch.
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