Hello Master Malstrom,
You’ve pointed out a couple of times that dominating the living-room TV is becoming a competition where winning isn’t profitable anymore. Nintendo sees it. Microsoft sees it, and in a recent post you say that Sony is trying to use the PS4 Pro to keep folks from moving to PC as this TV market diminishes. As a TV manufacturer, it makes sense Sony wouldn’t want folks to flee the living room.
However, I think the PlayStation VR unit is how they’re trying to defend their territory. Whether that’s just a defensive move or disruptive too, I don’t know. Pro is only there to mop up the remaining “hardcore” console gamers and get repeat buyers with shiny new hardware (Nintendo already mastered this trick with their handhelds). The rest of the market cares about TVs less and less as time goes on.
PlayStation consoles are intended to make you a potential customer for Sony’s other products (which terrified Microsoft and prompted the Xbox). You bought a PS3? Well now you’re in the market for a Sony-made HDTV and some Blu-Ray movies (from which Sony earns royalties). Might as well get Sony speakers and a nifty Eye camera, too. Sony doesn’t just make TV screens, but also camera lenses, PS4s, and owns licensing for oodles of entertainment content, all things that are a big part of their VR headset. They’re selling it as a platform because they want you to re-watch movies and buy virtual concerts… but this time in 3D or at least using the VR “big theater screen” mode.
I’ve used several of the available VR headsets (working for a tech company means a lot of nerdy coworkers love to buy new tech toys) and PS VR seems like the real deal. Many games operate on the “do what seems natural” principle that dominated Wii design philosophy. Some games and “experiences” are nothing more than OMG 3D with no substance, but others (like Rigs) use the head tracking or motion tracking to give the player more control. You can pilot your mech with twin sticks, but the head-tracked aiming essentially gives you a third “stick”, which simply cannot be replicated on a normal controller. Move wands are used in a way that feels like the fulfillment of the Wii’s promise of “Look! It’s like you’re really swinging a sword! It’s like you’re really throwing a frisbee!”
In an older post, you talked about how early videogames benefitted from the novelty of “controlling what was happening on the TV screen” and how this novelty has all but disappeared over the years. Couldn’t VR benefit from the novelty of “being in the game”? It’s kind of saddening, but people my age already have their noses in their phones all day. Is it really so far of a stretch for these people to put on a VR helmet to go even further “in”?
What separates the Wiimote from the VR headset, in your opinion? The lack of a social hook? The ease-of-use? It seems as though Sony may be pushing into a market that will become much bigger than it is now due to (you already mentioned this many times) the declining TV market. Folks will want to look at some sort of screen. Why not a VR screen?
Virtual Reality is like the Loch Ness Monster for the video game industry. There is no proof for market demand for it. Yet, it keeps being made. I have wondered why such a simple mistake keeps being made again and again.
The ‘VR’ mistake is made only when game companies stop thinking of themselves in the games business but in the future business. And what is in the future? Sci movies and books have virtual reality, holograms, and all that. We must keep track of the business fundamentals. Is there actual market demand for this. The consumers might SAY there is, but the consumers’ ACTIONS say otherwise. As Iwata would say, “consumers do not know what they want”.
The reason why I can confidently say Virtual Reality will fail now and always is because it is nothing new. Ecclesiastes says, “They say this is new! new! but there is nothing new under the sun.” Look at the Sega Virtual Reality above. Many people don’t realize Sega had a VR device. Hell, Nintendo dedicated an entire console to Virtual Reality.
“But Malstrom, the technology wasn’t there yet.”
Well, the technology wasn’t there when PONG was made or Space Invaders or any of the early video games. Yet, there was demand. The issue isn’t the technology, the issue is the demand. People don’t want it.
Human biology also will not allow VR. Talk to any eye doctor. The eyes are extremely complicated and very different depending on the person and their age. The eyes are so sensitive that astronauts pretty much destroy their eyes by being in zero gravity. The eyes are fucked up and are never truly ‘right’. You cannot make one system for all eyes. Any system would have to adapt to the person’s individual biology. This might be why VR creates headaches and other problems in different people but not all.
Take the hands. Is there only one type of video game controller? No. There are many different types. “But Malstrom, we have one type now.” Tell that to Microsoft who had to re-design their Xbox controller for the Japanese audience. My point is that while there is variance taken for hands, the hands are nowhere near as fucked up system in our body as our eyes. You do not have to see a ‘hand doctor’ every year or two for ‘hand prescriptions’.
Virtual Reality cannot work on so many reasons: human biology, lack of market demand, and it isn’t how Humans work. Humans are social creatures. Virtual Reality is the opposite of that. Wii Sports didn’t succeed because it had ‘motion controls’ so much as it created ‘house parties’ where everyone would play together. Humans like playing together. Also, a big reason why Wii succeeded over its competitors is because the masses do not want to be isolated in a virtual space.
What compelling reason is there to be in a ‘virtual reality’? Can anyone answer that? There is no answer. There is just the assumption that ‘it is the future’ because of bad sci fi movies and sci fi books. These people are not critical thinkers. They do not stop and ask, “Are we SURE this is the way?”
“We are Nintendo. Virtual Boy failed because of marketing and technology. Here is the 3DS.”
“Oh snap! I guess the technology isn’t there yet. Let us try again in ten years.”
That is the stupid thinking going on.
Now to answer your question: “Is Sony doing a defensive move with VR?” No. The defensive move is the PS 4 Pro. Sony is doing VR because Sony is stupid. There is no other way to say it. While these guys in top decision making powers are supposed to make rational decisions based off of market data, future technology trends, emerging demographics, etc. they also make derp decisions because they are idiots. Most of your bosses are idiots. The reason why bosses are idiots is because they do not know how to make a company. They only know how to climb the corporate ladder. These are DUMB people. Do not make them smarter than they are.
Why did Nintendo go ‘OMG 3d’ with 3DS and did the connectivity with the Wii U? It is because the decision makers were arrogant from the DS/Wii success and thought they were smart. This is how they became so STUPID. Any time a business decision-maker keeps thinking it is smart and genius, it does STUPID things.
“So how can we stop this, Malstrom?”
By creating a blog that keeps informing these decision-makers of how STUPID and IDIOTIC they are. I expect the value of this blog to be in the billions of dollars by now.
These game designers and business executives are not gods. They are idiots. The ‘smart’ game designers and executives are those who are aware of how stupid they are which is why they do the smart thing.
“God, I am such an idiot. Let me think of how stupid I am, and in all the things that I do, so I can not do them anymore.”
Does that line sound like Nintendo before the Wii came out or before the Wii U?
It is actually how Nintendo sounded before the Wii came out. Iwata: “If Wii sells like the Gamecube, then we shouldn’t be in the console business anymore.” But with the Wii U, they had TViiiiiiiiiiii as if Wii U was going to replace how we interacted with all our TVs. Or 3DS would usher in a new era of 3d viewing that has never been done before. Or read interviews of Sakamoto before Metroid: Other M came out to see how he thought he was a genius.
I should start a new business company. It will be to make people realize how stupid they are. Top executives, surrounded by yes man and fan clubs, will hire me to make them realize they are stupid so they can save billions of dollars.