Sony CEO Jim Ryan announces new VR system for Playstation 5
Breathing heavily, Agent 47 applies the sniper rifle, on the roofs of a huge skyscraper in Dubai, takes aim and pulls the trigger. Hit the bull’s eye, job done. Feeling like a contract killer for once and simply taking out unloved targets – this is made possible these days by the action game “Hitman 3”, a video game series about a super-killer bred in the laboratory.
And their missions are playing out as intensively as never before. For the first time, the creators have given the game a VR mode. This stands for “Virtual reality” and takes video players with appropriate accessories completely into foreign worlds. As a rule, glasses with built-in screens are necessary for this. Scenes then take place immediately in front of their own eyes and gamers no longer see anything else except the digital world.
There is only one problem: the VR breakthrough simply does not want to succeed, although it has been predicted for years. Because the corresponding equipment, in addition to a game console or a highly equipped gaming PC, usually costs several hundred euros. According to the poor sales figures, the supply of games is also poor – the market is too small to justify the development of expensive games.
This is also known at Sony, the company behind the Playstation 5 – actually. One might get the impression that VR is considered a little-loved stepchild there. There have been hardly any big VR games for the Playstation in recent years and on the latest Sony console, the company’s own “PSVR” headset only runs with an adapter and a suitable game version for the previous console. Accordingly, the industry was sure: there will be no new VR news from the Group for the time being.
But in an interview with WELT, Playstation BOSS Jim Ryan now confirms: “We are announcing a new VR system for the Playstation 5 today.” In doing so, the company will “work with the latest technologies,” Ryan promised. One had learned from the work on the previous headset, the manager explained – “whether it is that we are moving to a much simpler connection with just one cable or that we are further lowering the requirements for game developers.“
The first copies will be sent to developers soon. According to Ryan, the Group sees virtual reality as a strategically important growth area. Accordingly, this should not be a simple upgrade of old hardware; when asked, Ryan described the product as a “next-generation VR”.
Planned doubling of sales by 2032
The move is at least partly surprising. While the PlayStation 4, which was launched in 2013, has sold around 115 million units so far, Sony has only been able to sell around five million VR headsets since the start of sales in 2016. That’s only about four percent compared to the number of consoles sold.
Looking at the retail price of 399 euros, this is still a good result, but Playstation VR does not play a real role in Sony’s marketing measures. None of the announced PS5 exclusive games so far rely on VR.
After all, experts continue to assume that VR has what it takes to become a product for the masses. While 3.2 billion US dollars were still implemented in the consumer market in 2020, it is already expected to be 6.2 billion in 2032. In recent years, revenues in Germany have also increased significantly, but are still in the low three-digit million range.
According to a study by the consulting firm PwC, the VR market is expected to grow by an average of 19 percent per year by 2023. This would bring the revenues generated in this country to 280 million euros in two years. The second largest potential, according to the study, is already attributed to the gaming industry after the video industry.
This is exactly the time horizon that Playstation CEO Jim Ryan should be thinking about. The start of sales for the new glasses is still unclear, but when asked, Ryan denies at least media reports that the headset should not be released until 2023 at the earliest. A previous start of sales would therefore be possible; no official comment has ever been made on a date. But the so-called “dev kits”, prototypes of the device with which game developers work when creating content, would be sent “very soon”.
However, Sony may still have another problem: because so far the Japanese company has not yet managed to provide all its fans with new Playstation 5 consoles. “We understand the frustration of our fans. We are grateful for the high demand and I would have liked that every interested party would have got a console,“ Ryan explains. The decisive factors for the difficulties were, among other things, delivery problems in the pandemic; for example, in the semiconductor market.
Success even in times of crisis
A problem that car manufacturers or mobile phone manufacturers are currently also struggling with. “We are working very hard to expand production so that we can provide a console to anyone who would like to have a Playstation 5,” Ryan promised. Above all, they now want to supply the European markets with more consoles as quickly as possible.
Nevertheless, the market launch of the new game console should go down in the books of the group as the most successful product launch: “By the end of December, we have sold 4.5 million PS5 consoles,” says Ryan. This made the launch more successful than the Playstation 4 seven years ago. 25 Percent of new console buyers had not previously owned a previous console, 50 percent of them were new members of the so-called Playstation Network, the group’s paid online service.
These figures actually speak for the great success of the Sony console, even in pandemic times. After all, the devices with prices starting at 399 euros are a high-priced investment and opening up new buyers for the consoles is considered difficult in the gaming market due to its already wide fan base.
Until every interested party is supplied, Sony is trying to smooth things over a bit and is sending its own “Play At Home” initiative into the second round. On the one hand, the group donates free games to its customers to entertain the community at home and on the other hand invests in a fund to bring small game makers through the crisis in case of financial difficulties.
After the launch of the project last spring, the new edition will now be more comprehensive, Ryan promised WELT. “We will start by giving away the game ‘Ratchet & Clank’, which was released for the Playstation 4 in 2016.“
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“Alles auf Aktien” is the daily stock market shot from the WELT-Wirtschaftsredaktion. Every morning from 7 a.m. with the financial journalists Moritz Seyffarth and Holger Zschäpitz. For stock market connoisseurs and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer. Or directly via RSS feed.