Project Morpheus Showing at IFA Proves Sony’s Confidence in VR is Growing
As is often the case, Palmer Luckey said it best a year ago: “It’s not like they’ve said, “Yes, there will be more VR content that we’re publishing.””
For those that don’t recall, the Oculus Rift creator was speaking about Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) and its then-relatively new Project Morpheus virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) for the PlayStation 4. He was voicing the concerns of much of the VR community about what SCE was actually bringing to the table for the industry. The kit itself was impressive and SCE figureheads like Shuhei Yoshida were incredibly enthusiastic about it, but there was an undeniably worrying lack of support from other areas of the company.
Concerns were first raised in 2014 when SCE Europe CEO Jim Ryan noted that its release was still ‘uncertain’. Despite what fans had been lead to believe thus far, Ryan stated that the kit was very much a ‘technology exercise’, spreading doubt about how much confidence the business side of SCE held in the device. The year that followed fuelled those doubts, as the company only made passing mentions of the kit.
But, thankfully, Project Morpheus is indeed set for a consumer release as announced at the 2015 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in March. In fact, it’s not just SCE that seems to be backing the future of VR now but Sony Corporation as a whole, as demonstrated during the company’s IFA 2015 press conference in Berlin this week.
Sony’s consumer show conferences usually make little mention of the PlayStation brand. At both IFA and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) towards the start of each year the company doubles down on other areas such as TVs, cameras and smartphones. This was no different at yesterday’s conference, hosted by company CEO Kazuo Hirai. However, following the introduction of a brand new handset, the Xperia Z5, and several updates, Hirai surprisingly turned his attention to the upcoming VR HMD.
No major announcements were made; it would appear that Project Morpheus is simply on display at this week’s event, but the mere mention of the device at a general electronics show has some big implications. It proves that Sony is starting to feel much more confident about the future of VR and its device, bringing it to the attention of those beyond the core PlayStation 4 audience. The company clearly recognises that the kit has the potential to reach far beyond videogame enthusiasts and appeal to other tech fans, movie goers, educational experts and more.
It also suggests that, to Sony, Project Morpheus is a potential major new hardware opportunity. After all, the device is the company’s only HMD now that it’s closed production of its HMZ series of personal viewers. One limiting factor of this is that the device is linked to the PlayStation 4; it’s not an independent system like the TVs and smartphones that it talks about so often. Both are Sony products, but the barrier will no doubt need to be removed to access a much more general audience that has no interest in purchasing a videogame console.
Either way, it’s exciting to think about how not just SCE but Sony as a whole might support Project Morpheus. We’ve already seen a glimpse of this potential things to a collaboration with Sony Pictures, but the device could go much further with the backing of the entire company. As a peripheral to the PlayStation 4 Project Morpheus is an exciting add-on. As a major new hardware category for Sony as a whole the kit could have a much brighter future ahead of it.