Sony exec talks PlayStation VR price, possibility of PSN/Xbox Live cross-play

"We're always willing to have the conversation."

Two hot topics at the Game Developers Conference are virtual reality and the recent discussion around the possibility of PlayStation Network-Xbox Live cross-play. So when we sat down with PlayStation executive Adam Boyes this week for an interview, we picked his brain on those very subjects.

One major talking point about PlayStation VR this week has been around its price point. At $400, it's lower than Oculus Rift ($600) and HTC Vive ($800), even when you factor in the required $60 PlayStation Camera. How was Sony able to land on that price and still make a profit on each device?

Boyes told us that Sony's goal from the start was to make PlayStation VR affordable to a wide audience; the company previously said it was hoping to price the system as low as possibly could be done.

"A lot of the conspiracy theorists think that we look at everybody else's price and then we choose arbitrarily. No, we've always thought about this as sort of a very value proposition driven device," he explained. "Making it a great price that ties into the PS4 to extend that is super-important. So still high-end components, still a great experience, and the game experiences are also super-great. So when all that stuff ties together for only $399, we're really happy with where we landed for price."

Still, some may see a lower price point and immediately connect that with an inferior product. Boyes said this is not the case. He touted the PlayStation 4's GDDR 5 RAM has being hugely helpful, going on to say that when you put on the headset yourself, you may end up with your jaw on the floor, in a "holy crap" moment.

Sony's decades of experience in the electronics manufacturing business is also a major plus for PlayStation VR and is part of the reason why the company can offer the device at $400.

"We have a parent brand in Sony that's been making electronics devices for 80-plus years," he explained. "And so a lot of that drives into we have amazing partners around the world that have been making component parts for many, many years so the manufacturing process is second nature to us. Even when PS4 came out, a lot of people were surprised by how small it was, how effective it was--the fan was inside and all that stuff. So it's one of our strengths as a company with our big brother."

As for the October 2016 release window, Boyes said launching at this time gives PlayStation VR--and the overall PlayStation 4 ecosystem--as a "nice runway" into the all-important holiday season.

Content will be important, too, of course. Boyes reiterated in our interview that there are currently 230 developers working on PlayStation VR games. While a launch lineup has not been announced, there will be 50 PlayStation VR games available by the end of the year.

Switching gears to the recent chatter around the possibility of cross-network play between PSN and Xbox Live, Boyes called out Sony's PlayStation-to-PC cross-network play examples in the past, including Dust 514 and Street Fighter V. And as for support for Xbox consoles, Boyes mentioned how Diablo III players on Xbox 360 could import their characters to PlayStation 4, while the same is true for Grand Theft Auto V.

This is an example of PSN and Xbox Live working together, but it isn't cross-network play, of course. Boyes said Sony is open to the idea of PSN-Xbox Live cross-play, but stopped short of making any announcements. It would require a groundswell of support for developers/publishers and gamers alike.

"I think we've been really on the forefront of allowing people to play within the realms," he said. "And it really comes back to developers and publishers that are interested in those kinds of things. So we're always willing to have the conversation.

"What we always do when we're looking at any feature on the PS4 is really hearing from the community and a lot of the decisions we make on the platform are based on what the community is looking for," he added. "So that's always been part of PlayStation's DNA and that's what we're always going to look for--if publishers/developers are interested if gamers are interested, then we're always willing to explore a variety of opportunities."

Microsoft has indicated the ground-work required to connect Xbox Live with PlayStation Network had been complete. According to Sony, getting the two networks to connect "could be easy" from a technical perspective.

Xbox indie developer director Chris Charla said earlier this week: "In addition to natively supporting cross-platform play between Xbox One and Windows 10 games that use Xbox Live, we're enabling developers to support cross-network play as well.

"This means players on Xbox One and Windows 10 using Xbox Live will be able to play with players on different online multiplayer networks--including other consoles and PC networks."

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