Keep your eyes on the watch as it moves back and forth…
We’ve known for a long time about the unusual effects VR hardware can have on some of us – disorientation, nausea, and so on – but it also seems to have the power to inspire strange behaviours among the people driving these technologies. Take Jeff Stafford, senior staff software engineer at Sony Computer Entertainment America, for example. As one of the key people behind the forthcoming PlayStation VR, Stafford shares responsibility for building hype around Sony’s hardware in the face of fearsome competitors. And yet he was happy to admit recently that the product his team will ship in October is suboptimal. “[In the future] we’re going to try and improve every aspect of it,” he said. “Get it lighter, smaller form factor, easier to use. Of course people want wireless – that’s a challenge. There’s so many things…” His colleague, PlayStation group executive vice president Masayasu Ito, was at it, too: ”If you just talk about the high-end quality, yes, I would admit that Oculus may have better VR.” It is impossible to imagine words like these tumbling out of Ken Kutaragi’s mouth at the launch of the original PlayStation. Marketing offensives are supposed to obscure uncomfortable truths, not push them out into the open. These are, appropriately, strange days.
With VR, not only does the thinking behind traditional videogame industry marketing disappear out of the window, but a whole lot of other things with it. As Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House puts it, “The most fascinating thing is how VR has rewritten the rulebook of what game design should be.” It presents a particular opportunity for smaller studios, unburdened by the ways of old-fashioned industry heavyweights, to stand out.
Beginning on p62, we visit Oculus HQ to see how Palmer Luckey and his team are confronting the challenges presented by this new era; set up an HTC Vive ourselves in order to properly test its room-scale approach; and take a look at Sony’s console-powered strategy. There is a lot to unpack in the crazy new world of VR. If you stare hard enough at the concentric circles on the cover of this issue, your brain may be able to get ready to take it all in.
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