Yoshida: Project Morpheus “Has to be Affordable” and “Needs Strong Content”

As part of a giant feature on virtual reality, The Verge (via GameSpot) spoke with Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida about their upcoming PlayStation 4 VR device, Project Morpheus.

After Shuhei highlighted that “it’s a great time to be a programmer” and “having VR technology is almost unfair,” he revealed what it will take to sell VR to consumers, which includes being affordable, having strong content, and deliver the core technology:

The first thing we strongly believe, and Oculus says the same thing, is that we need to deliver the core technology first. We want to make the technology before we bring it to market. The product we have we’re pretty happy with, but there are many areas we can improve on to bring it to an even higher level. And the technology advances every month.

But we also have to nail it from a system-development standpoint. People don’t buy hardware just to have hardware. It needs strong content. Every developer who has started working on VR learns that they have to relearn what they have learned over the years making games. A lot of tech and new assets can be used again, but the approach has to be pretty different.

You’re building a location-based environment, so the experience has to be good. If the games or apps are designed poorly, it makes people sick, which is a really, really bad thing to have as an introduction. We have to work hard to share the knowledge that we have gained.

And finally, the product has to be affordable. All three categories have to work.

Shuhei then talked about what Morpheus’ killer app might be:

A sense of presence is something that only VR can bring to the market, an experience that gives you a really strong sense of presence somewhere else. That somewhere else has to be really attractive to you, so you want to go back to that space again and again. That will be the killer app for that platform.

I spent three months with a backpack in Europe going from one city to another. That was a great experience, but it’s really hard to do getting older—you don’t have the time or money. Well, I have more money now but I don’t have time [laughs]. You get to be someplace and an accident might happen, but in VR you can set a perfect location. It could be a fantastic space like Star Wars or Game of Thrones, or another place you want to immerse yourself in. An anime IP in Japan would be attractive to a Japanese audience — the place that you want to come back to will be different for different people.

When it comes to Project Morpheus, Shuhei believes “3D sound is an essential part of creating a sense of presence,” and without it, “it’s very easy to break the immersion.”

He added:

When you see an object to your left, you want to hear the sound that the object creates from your left. So we designed a system to handle all the work of creating 3D sound so that game developers can pretty easily map sounds in the 3D space.

Each sound source has 3D location data so that for every frame, the proper sound is computed to your left ear and right ear. That’s part of Morpheus, and we believe having 3D sound is essential.

Also on the topic of immersion, he pointed out how interactions with the DualShock 4, PlayStation Camera, and PlayStation Move will be very important. “We used to say seeing is believing. Now we have to say experiencing is believing,” he summed up.

In terms of priorities for Sony, Shuhei said that Project Morpheus “is one of the areas we are very excited about, like cloud gaming with PS Now, or other networked services. We’re really focused on bringing that experience to consumers.”

Looking at potential games, he replied with “that would be awesome” when asked if Hideo Kojima might bring a game to VR, but didn’t give us any specifics. He did, however, add, “Have you played the Destiny beta? Half of the time I was just hiding out in the Tower, just chilling, looking at the great vista. That would be great in a VR setup.”