Tech Transformers

PlayStation Pro goes on sale as Sony predicts bolstered virtual reality gaming in 2 years

Sony is unsure what genre will be the biggest hit for virtual reality (VR) gaming, a company executive admitted, but said new experiences will be developed over the next two years for the PlayStation VR.

Released last month, the $399 PS VR is a headset that connects to existing PlayStation 4 (PS4) consoles or the company's new beefed-up PS4 Pro which was released on Thursday.

The technology, which has taken off this year, is nonetheless still at the early stages with products from Facebook's Oculus to HTC Vive all competing to win consumers over.

Shawn Layden, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment America, said on Wednesday, that VR presents "new opportunities."

"We are not exactly sure what's going to be the hit genre for VR," Layden said at a talk during the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon.

"In 12 to 18 months, we are going to find things in VR that can only be experienced in VR."

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The PS VR came to market with 50 games available. But these are short experiences. Some games, for example, last around 20 minutes. For now, this is the way Layden sees new games for the platform given the intensity of playing in VR.

"I think the VR experience such as it is…it really works best in about a 15-, 20-, 30-minute experience…it's a lot like arcade gaming, it's a lot like I drop my coin into the machine and I have that experience for 6, 8, 9, 10 minutes. It will be a long time until you have a Final Fantasy 7 experience in VR for 75 hours…it does work best in a very tight, intense, gaming environment," Layden said.

VR hardware revenues are set to exceed $50 billion by 2021 so it's potentially big business for Sony, which already has an install base of nearly 50 million PS4 users to sell too. But it is also hoping the attraction of VR could help it sell some PS4 Pro consoles. The PS4 Pro is an upgraded console that features a faster processor specifically to render games in 4K quality – or four times the resolution of high-definition displays.

While it's not necessary to have a PS4 Pro to play VR, the promise of higher-quality graphics could tempt some consumers. The release comes just three years after the original PS4 was released and marks a major departure from the typically longer refresh cycles for consoles. Microsoft has also released a mid-cycle refresh console called the Xbox One S and is planning a higher spec product next year named "Project Scorpio".

Layden did not reveal what games are coming up for the PS VR, but said that experiences around "discovery" could really take off.

"The question is, how does VR enhance the experience? … The first time we were able to realize the player's hands … that changed the entire depth of immersion," Layden said.

"We're barely scratching the surface."