Does VR need one “killer” app, or does the whole experience sell itself?

With the first generation of virtual reality headsets revealed to the world, the cards are on the table from the big players and the race underway to become the biggest seller. The Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, and HTC Vive all offer their own unique feature-set and associated advantages and disadvantages, but do they need that exclusive killer title to be a success? John Koller, vice president of marketing at Sony Interactive Entertainment, seems to think so.

Sony are working with EA, DICE, Lucasfilm, and Disney to try and bring an exclusive title in the form of Star Wars Battlefront to the Playstation VR to make the headset provide that something special that consumers want and will drive sales.

“We are working with EA, DICE, Lucasfilm, and Disney to try and make that experience something so special and so intrinsic to what’s in many people’s DNA, which is how can I be in that world of Star Wars,” says Koller.

Star Wars Battlefront is being lined up as the must-have game for Playstation VR that will be used to showcase the capabilities of not only the headset, but also virtual reality as a platform, making the PS VR the intrinsic center of the experience.

Battlefront is going to be one of those games that will really show gamers what it means to be in the world of VR. It’s very special. And just by the nature of it being designed as a VR experience, it’s going to be very different than the PlayStation 4 game.”

That ‘killer’ App

star-wars-battlefront

But does Playstation VR need this to succeed? Sony have already seen pre-orders for the PS VR bundle sell out at a variety of resellers and the platform isn’t even scheduled to ship out until October at the earliest. That’s even before any of the exclusive content has been showcased, capabilities fully demonstrated, or virtual reality headset fully reviewed. The sheer hype surrounding virtual reality was enough to sell out the pre-order stock allocation just because it’s a new technology.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter believes Sony’s Playstation VR headset will sell as many as 5 million bundles worldwide this year, and he estimates they will have 2 million available for launch.

“Typical pre-order supply is 20% of launch quantity, so 400,000 is reasonable for pre-order volume,” Pachter says. “It’s possible that they took fewer orders early in order to gauge manufacturing plans, so maybe only half that figure early. We’ll see if there are more units available for pre-order this summer.”

So if it’s not for exclusive content generating enough interest to sell the main VR headsets, then the exclusive content will be necessary to differentiate them from each other, but not seemingly as consumers have been used to when it comes to traditional consoles like the Xbox One and Playstation 4. Koller explains that he perceives the role of exclusive VR games as a little different to the console experience and believes there doesn’t need to be that one killer app given VR is so personal. It really depends on what experience that person wants and what they think is really great.

“That’s different than our (console) platform launches, where you generally can say ‘that’s the game’ (that will help drive hardware sales).”

That killer experience

What will drive VR sales for any headset won’t necessarily be the exclusive content that is developed for them, but more what the content is best played on and which headset offers the greatest experience. This is where manufactures need to differentiate their product; taking the HTC Vive and their Lighthouse technology is a perfect example that will make the experience of extended gaming with the headset a better experience than a session with a headset that doesn’t offer the same complexity of motion tracking.

So while Star Wars Battlefront exclusively coming to the Playstation VR will undoubtedly attract hardcore fans who must have the same to purchase the headset, the PS VR is still missing Steam integration offered by the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The manufacturers of the VR headsets would consequently, in my opinion, will see greater reward focusing not on just securing exclusive content for their VR headsets, but refining and improving the experience by differentiating their platforms based on the features they offer over the competition.

Let us know what you think in the comments below: Do VR headsets need that exclusive app? Or is it more about creating the best VR hardware/software/feature integration possible?

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