EA's CEO: Why VR Is Not Ready To Take Off Yet

EA's CEO: Why VR Is Not Ready To Take Off Yet
November 16, 2016

Electronic Arts' CEO, Andrew Wilson, lays out a lot of common sense when it comes to the topic of virtual reality. The sales haven't been that great for VR hardware or software, and the EA veteran takes time out to explain why.


In an interview with The Verge, Wilson talks about three things that VR needs to be successful. One is being innovative, the other is a profound user experience, and the last is a low barrier to entry.


According to Wilson the innovative technology is certainly there. We see that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both have fairly comfortable headsets and also have motion-based controls such as the Oculus Touch and the Vive controllers that allow users to move their arms around in a virtual space and interact with things in ways that were previously untenable in earlier generations.


However, the innovative technology isn't quite matched up with innovative software. According to Wilson, the biggest selling games are action-adventure titles, shooters and sports games. And he mentions that you can't have a "profound" user experience if people keep getting sick and nauseated from the movement.


Wilson also talks about another important thing that has been a key talking point all throughout eighth gen gaming: frame-rate. You cannot escape frame-rate and the refresh in a virtual reality game. People can argue all they want about 30fps versus 60fps, but if your VR title is not running at a smooth 120fps (which is why the system requirements are so high) you will get sick. It's not even a matter of "if". It's why Sony added the 60fps certification standard to the PSVR titles. They're using additional software to insert frames between the refresh to double them up for a 120fps playing experience. However, the game has to be at 60fps at all times, and some games don't quite hit that standard, thus resulting in nausea.


In the eyes of the EA executive, he believes that games are going to have to change fundamentally on a core level if they're going to take advantage of something like the PSVR for the PS4 and PS4 Pro. He explicitly mentions that you can't take a game like FIFA 17 and slap it on the PSVR; it would have to change on the ground level. It makes sense because you basically have to rework your title so that the hardware has room to breath in VR (which takes up a lot of processing power). It means you'll have to cut out a lot of post-processing, a lot of shader, a lot of shadow and possibly resolution to accommodate the 60fps/120fps standard.


For reference, many AAA games operate on a variably dynamic 1080p/30fps standard on the PS4 and Xbox One. What this means is that 1080p isn't always a fixed resolution and it will variably scale in order to maintain 30fps. Some games, such as the multiplayer for Call of Duty or Rainbow Six: Siege orWolfenstein: The New Order will sacrifice certain graphical features in order to maintain 60fps at all times during the actual gameplay. So for adequate VR on the PS4, developers will have to choose between graphics and frame-rate.


Lastly, Wilson talks about the barrier to entry. This is the one thing that keeps a lot of people away from VR and you see it all the time in comment sections, forum threads and message boards: the price.


Right now the cheapest solution for AAA VR gaming is the PlayStation VR, and the cost of that console is $399.99. That's not including the additional hardware needed to use the PSVR. All the other options are exorbitantly expensive, and Wilson plainly states that it will be several "cycles" before the price of VR drops and becomes a "no-brainer" option for most hardcore gamers.

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