Image above: A visitor to Sony Interactive Entertainment Korea's virtual reality (VR) exhibition corner plays VR shooting game "Farpoint" during the G-Star 2016 international game exhibition at BEXCO exhibition center, Busan, Friday. / Korea Times photo by Yoon Sung-won
BUSAN ― Virtual reality (VR) has taken center stage at the G-Star 2016 international game exhibition.
Companies like Sony Interactive Entertainment Korea (SIEK), HTC and Nvidia have showcased the latest advancements in VR applications, backed by an array of visual content and advanced graphics and physics engines, hinting that they will be ready to provide unprecedented gaming experiences in the next year or two.
SIEK, the Korean subsidiary of the world's most sought-after game console device PlayStation (PS) series, has established 40 special exhibition booths dedicated to PS VR game content, in cooperation with the G-Star Organizing Committee. Even though it was a weekday, Friday, myriad visitors lined up for their turn to experience VR games such as Capcom's "Resident Evil 7: Biohazard," ROI Games' "White Day: Swan Song" and Rocksteady Studio's "Batman: Arkham VR."
In particular, "White Day," which is one of the first horror VR games being developed in Korea, presented a vivid and horrifying experience throughout the demonstration.
SIEK emphasized that the PS VR will hasten penetration of VR technologies to general users.
"We believe that the PS VR is one of the first commercialized VR entertainment systems with an affordable, reasonable price for general users," said Park Won-ho, a marketing division official at SIEK. "We have also partnered with more than 200 game development companies both at home and abroad to secure abundant playable content for the VR system."
SIEK launched the PS VR system, including a head-mounted display device and a motion-detection camera, in Korea for about 600,000 won, alongside a dozen VR-ready games. The Japan-based company stressed that it has high anticipation for Korea's potential VR market.
"Our headquarters in Japan also have high hopes for the Korean market," a SIEK spokesman said. "This is not only as a consumer market for VR devices and content, but also for development capabilities of Korea's game companies. We are seeing our VR business here from a long-term perspective."
HTC, a Taiwanese electronics company, also revealed its presence as a leading VR technology developer at the game show.
The company launched its "HTC Vive" VR device, jointly developed by HTC and Valve Corporation, for 1.25 million won in Korea. The Vive system includes a wireless VR controller, room scale movement detector and a head-mounted display equipped with a camera.
"This year is the first year of the VR era," HTC's VR new technology division Vice President, Raymond Pao, said. "Starting from this year, and next year, you will see game content showing up to really drive the trend moving forward to VR. There will be an entirely new trend in gaming from existing personal computer games to VR."
HTC holds about 66 percent VR market share through Valve Corporation's VR game distribution channel "Steam VR." Based on its space and location recognition technology dubbed "Lighthouse," the company is expanding applications from games to the manufacturing, tourism, education and simulation sectors.
The Taiwanese company has also signed an agreement with the Busan city administration jointly to establish and run a center for augmented and virtual reality technologies.
Nvidia, the world's top graphics technology provider, has set up demonstration booths named "GeForce VR Experience" for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Oculus is a VR sector subsidiary of Facebook. In a demonstration play, both devices, which have been considered the most advanced head-mounted VR devices commercialized so far, provided realistic graphics and physics experiences.
While VR content has been increasingly adopted by foreign providers, major Korean game companies such as Nexon and Netmarble Games have not unveiled specific plans to tap into this technology for its games. The relatively high price of consumer VR systems is seen as the main reason for this.
"Even with the uncomfortable fit and dizziness set aside, users have to spend almost 1 million won to play a VR game for now and this can be a barrier in speeding up penetration of VR content to the general public," an industry source said. "Major game companies here will also need solid profit models for VR content to launch the VR games business in full scale."