Gaming

20 ST readers get VIP treatment at GameStart

Student Andy Tan Khan Soon, 23, playing The London Heist Getaway at GameStart last Friday. He was one of 20 ST readers who got to try Sony's PlayStation VR, one of the biggest draws at the event and part of the first wave of virtual reality devices s
Student Andy Tan Khan Soon, 23, playing The London Heist Getaway at GameStart last Friday. He was one of 20 ST readers who got to try Sony's PlayStation VR, one of the biggest draws at the event and part of the first wave of virtual reality devices slated to hit the market in next year's first quarter.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

They get to skip queues to try out Sony's virtual reality headset PlayStation VR

"A little creepy" and "very immersive" were some of the words used by gamers to describe their experience with Sony's virtual reality headset PlayStation VR (PS VR) at video game convention GameStart 2015 last Friday.

The gamers were among 20 readers who won an online contest held by The Straits Times, which saw each of them getting a three-day VIP pass to the show at Suntec Singapore.

The winners also got to skip the queue to try out the PS VR, one of the biggest draws at the event and part of the first wave of virtual reality devices slated to hit the market in the first quarter of next year.

Straits Times reader Sarvesh Panirselvam tried out Summer Lesson, a Bandai Namco virtual reality demo that lets users interact with a virtual schoolgirl.

"It really feels like there's a person in front of you, rather than a computer animation. It's a little creepy, as when they sit beside you, it really feels like they can touch you, or grab you," said the 18-year-old game design and development student at Temasek Polytechnic.

"I'm studying game design, but we haven't really gotten our hands on such devices, and they are too expensive. Having an opportunity to try it out in Singapore is quite rare."

The second edition of GameStart, which took place from last Friday to Sunday, saw 17,000 attendees pack two halls at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre. Last year's inaugural edition drew 12,000 people.

Fans had the chance to try out unreleased games, watch competitions and showmatches, meet game developers and buy video game merchandise.

Established companies such as Sony, Blizzard Entertainment and Bandai Namco also set up booths at the event to promote their games and systems.

Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Asia deputy president Hiroyuki Oda told The Straits Times that the PS VR is more than just an attachment to the PlayStation console.

"We think that the PS VR is not simply a peripheral of the PlayStation. It is a new gaming platform, like the PlayStation 4 or PlayStation Vita, and can provide a totally new gaming experience for our customers," he said.

In a market that will be contested by other headsets such as the Oculus Rift and SteamVR, Mr Oda believes that the PS VR will set itself apart by its ease of use.

"Just plug it into the PS4, plug that into the television, wear the headset, and everybody can enjoy it," he said, noting that other devices, such as the Rift, have to be connected to a more "complicated" PC for content.

The PS VR is therefore targeted at both the hardcore player and the casual user who may not otherwise play games on a console.

"The PS VR can lower the barriers of entry to the PlayStation world. Once some people hear PlayStation, they think it's very difficult, they have to fight and it's very hardcore. But the VR, I believe, will lower these barriers to entry, and we can expand our target audience."

However, Mr Oda is realistic about the challenges that the PS VR will face, especially in an Asian market where the console penetration rate is still lagging behind that of the West. For example, although the PS4 was released in 2013 in most of the world, it was launched in China only this March.

"We will need more promotion and exposure for Asian customers. In the West, putting a console in the living room is very common, but in Asian countries, this is different. But this is slowly changing."

Aside from games, Mr Oda also sees many other possible applications for the PS VR, although he cannot say when these might take place.

"Currently, user-generated content is very popular, especially with things like GoPros and drones becoming more common. In the future, maybe the PS VR can allow this sort of content. The non-game opportunities are huge."

For now, consumers such as Straits Times reader Daniz Wong can look forward to the landscape of human-machine interaction changing early next year.

Mr Wong, a 35-year-old civil servant, tried out Capcom horror demo The Kitchen.

"The quality is very good, and from a visual perspective, it's really very immersive," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2015, with the headline '20 ST readers get VIP treatment at GameStart'. Print Edition | Subscribe