Many next-gen games are already so immersive it makes sense Sony Corp. is looking at virtual reality as a potential future for video games. The PlayStation VR is the latest interactive headset, but it's tied to the incredibly successful PS4. It's a gamble because VR may not be ready for the spotlight, which is why Sony's backup plan is a great slate of games for its console. With its year-end conference this weekend, the PlayStation Experience 2015, it's a good time to look at what the Japanese electronics giant has in store for 2016.
PlayStation VR has come a long way since it was first introduced as Project Morpheus at the Game Developers Conference in 2014. Name aside, what PlayStation VR represents for the PS4 remains the same. "Virtual reality is the next innovation from PlayStation that will shape the future of games," president of Sony Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida, said during the Project Morpheus unveiling in 2014.
Sony was once known for revolutionizing electronics, be it with the Walkman or the original PlayStation or the Trinitron television, but in recent years it's been surpassed by a new set of rivals. "Sony's always been about pushing the cutting edge of their products. There's a lot of potential to drive the image of Sony," said David Cole, an industry analyst from DFC Intelligence. "Sony's brand image has been hurt. You go back 15 years, Sony was on top of the world. Apple and others came along and they lost some of that luster."
In many ways, it's the best time for Sony to experiment with virtual reality. VR is the next killer app for video games, which is why Sony wants to leverage the large PS4 user base. "There's only upside for Sony. If it's a flop they might lose some money, but they're not considering it mission critical. There's definite potential for them to stand out from the crowd," Cole said.
The success of the PS4 has helped Sony earn a profit after multiple years of operating at a loss. In its 2013/2014 financial year, Sony reported a loss of 130 billion Japanese Yen (roughly $1 billion), according to Reuters. After a year of restructuring, Sony swung to a profit of $729 million in the second quarter of fiscal year 2015.
Sony will have some competition. Microsoft has the Hololens while Oculus Rift is expected to ship sometime during the first quarter of 2016. The Hololens is being touted by Microsoft for its usages in the home and within various industries. The Oculus Rift will feature its own lineup of games, but will be more PC-based, according to Cole.
Rather than wait for developers to figure out how to incorporate a new accessory, Sony has been working with developers to create PlayStation VR games. At PlayStation Experience 2015, there will be 17 VR games that will be previewed. "Driveclub VR," "Harmonix Music VR" and "London Heist: The Getaway" are just a few titles. Sony will also host a VR panel featuring Anton Mikhailov, Media Molecule ("Little Big Planet") and additional special guests.
Those hoping to get more concrete details -- a release date or price -- may be disappointed with what's available at PlayStation Experience 2015. Cole said that the International Consumer Electronics show (CES) in January would be a better occasion for such an announcement.
PS4 will feature an impressive selection of exclusive titles and multi-platform games. In January and February, games like console exclusives "Amplitude," "The Witness" and "Firewatch" and multi-platform titles like "Mighty No. 9" and "Far Cry Primal" offer plenty of variety for gamers. The big game of February happens to be "Street Fighter V," a console exclusive for the PS4.
March kicks off a busy stretch of months for gamers with several highly anticipated exclusives across all consoles. Many fans are eagerly anticipating the March 18 release of "Uncharted 4: A Thief's End." Naughty Dog's incredibly popular franchise will follow the last adventure of Nathan Drake. March also sees the re-master of "Heavy Rain" for the PS4. Spring 2016 also sees "Ratchet & Clank" make the leap to PS4. There are plenty of other games, such as the ridiculously hyped "No Man's Sky," that are scheduled for release at some point in 2016.
With PlayStation VR and the slate of games for the PS4, Cole expects Sony to have a great 2016. "I think they are going to really solidify their position as the number one gaming platform of this generation. The VR system is just icing on the cake," Cohen said.