As reported on by Fortune, John Koller, Vice President of Marketing for Sony Interactive Entertainment, attended GameStop shareholder meetings in Dallas this week to provide a demonstration of PlayStation VR and discuss the details of a partnership between Sony and GameStop that will provide over 500,000 PS VR in-store demos across the country between June and December 2016.
So much for my business plan to open a PSVRcade to give consumers a place to try out the system for a minimal hourly fee. No way I could compete with the likes of GameStop (or other retailers that will almost assuredly have demo stations of their own).
But this story emphasizes why I and many others think PlayStation is best poised to capture the majority of the early VR market share away from the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Apart from the cost differential, Sony has a 20+ year history of relationships with the GameStops, Best Buys, and Walmarts of the world. The article points out that GameStop does have in-store demos for the HTC Vive but between the smaller demo space requirement and the built-in PlayStation 4 audience of over 36 million, there will be a much greater PlayStation VR presence.
Reports started appearing of the shipping delay issues that Oculus has been experiencing (again, because Facebook has never really had a retail arm of their company). Head of Oculus Jason Rubin told Wareable, "We are very embarrassed by it...This is not the experience we wanted to give to our consumers." Shortages are hurting initial perceptions of both the Rift and Vive. In an industry that has to be experienced to be believed, early adopters having to wait for that experience aren't able to be the evangelists that Oculus and HTC need them to be to keep driving units.
Meanwhile, it has been suggested that Sony may have pushed the PlayStation VR release from the originally announced first half of 2016 to October in order to give manufacturing more time to ready as many units as possible to fulfill the pre-order excitement as well as provide a healthy stockpile for on-the-shelf units throughout the all-too-important holiday season. If GameStops are going to have demo units onsite as early as June (most likely alongside a Sony E3 announcement telling people at their Monday, June 13th conference that PlayStation VR will be playable the next day in GameStops across the country), it stands to reason that they could have hit that original window.
Personally, I'm glad to have experienced it already and not need the in-store demo as a selling point (even if, as my initial impressions stated, I wasn't blown away by it like others have been) because I can almost guarantee that there will be a reddit thread full of videos of disgruntled GameStop employees messing with oblivious customers trying out the headset on Day One.
Special thanks to Frank Bozzani (@irrelevantjokes) for tipping me off to this story and suggesting I write up my take on it.