News Article

Electronic Arts CEO Discusses The Company's Plans For Virtual Reality At SXSW

Posted by Samantha Sofka

Virtual reality is becoming a solid reality

The trend of virtual reality gaming has been picking up speed ever since the Oculus Rift was demoed at E3 back in 2012. Although VR has been done in the past, it left gamers wanting a better experience. Though the Oculus Rift is not on the market yet, we've seen some pretty interesting demos of games like Legend of Zelda: Windwaker and Metroid Prime making the current venture into virtual reality look promising — so much so that companies like Sony and Microsoft are already reportedly working on virtual reality peripherals for their next gen consoles. EA seems to be jumping on the VR wagon as well as the company's chief executive Andrew Wilson discussed the publisher's loose plans during a panel at SXSW Gaming.

According to Wilson, the company must first study how people are currently playing games:

When we think about making games today, we think less about the technology or the means of experiencing the game, and we think more about the modality of play. So, how are you trying to interact with that game?

Wilson emphasized the fact that the way you physically interact with the game informs nearly every other aspect of the experience:

There's the 'lean back' modality, which is, I'm sitting in my living room across from an 80-inch TV, 7.1 surround sound, and I want high-def, high fidelity, highly immersive entertainment. That's the first modality that we have to sort of fulfill for games. The second is the 'lean in' modality; that's kind of the PC type, where you have a lot of drive for shooters, RPGs and RTS-type games. Irrespective of what computer is driving it, there's this proximity you have to the experience and that's the style you want to play that.

The third modality is the "lean over" modality which refers to playing on a mobile phone or tablet. According to Wilson, virtual reality has the potential to completely change the industry by adding a fourth option to that list:

When I look at any of the VR devices, I look at that not in terms of 'What is that device going to deliver,' but a desire for gamers to have a different type of modality — the 'Get In' type of modality, right. That might be delivered to you through a headset, or through some hologram that evolves out of your living room floor.

The thing I challenge my team to right now is, 'Listen, there's clearly a desire to add a modality of play to the three we're currently focused on. I don't know who the technology partner is that's going to deliver that modality for us, but let's start thinking now about the experiences [...] so that we can deliver experiences that make sense for you; experiences that deliver on the promise and the fantasy of being inside a video game.

It's hard to say what this means for Nintendo because EA hasn't supported the company for some time. One thing is for certain however, virtual reality is becoming more of a reality and may revolutionize the gaming world forever. Do you think Nintendo will embrace the tech in the fullness of time? Share your predictions with a comment.


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User Comments (65)



Mk_II said:

As long as it involves wearing a clunky headset or helmet i think it won't be a success.



HollowGrapeJ said:

I know what your plans are. *Next need for speed, next mirrors edge, Titanfall DLC, pvz: gw DLC, next Dragon Age DLC announced, 50 Sims 4 expansion packs, oh and did I mention DLC?



MamaLuigi said:

I'm sure they will. 3D tech on the 3DS is hardly a substitute for VR but it hints at the kind of thing they would like pull off for the next gen DS as well as possibly a revamped Gamepad. XDD



cookiex said:

I tried out Oculus Rift at a local convention last week and while it's an impressive piece of tech, I feel it needs some fine tuning before they release it to the public. There's still some steps needed to be taken before VR can be fully embraced I think.



epylon said:

And the award for the most times modality is mentioned in a statement goes to....



HopeNForever said:

Didn't Nintendo already attempt to embrace the concept of virtual reality with the Virtual Boy? Not sure they may bother with double-dipping back into it, especially since the Nintendo 3DS and its auto-stereoscopic 3D screen is doing well enough.



Nik-Davies said:

Virtual reality would only work well with first person games, and I hate those, therefore virtual reality doesn't interest me.



DreamOn said:

Focusing on virtual reality this decade will lose them money without fail. And since when did these companies start getting all Nintendo with the invention mode? I guess Technology trends and cheap manufacturing are the gold rush of our times.



Samurai_Goroh said:

After the failure of the Virtual Boy, I don't see Nintendo keen to explore this path. Some people don't even like to wear spectacles for 3D. For the majority of people, the idea of a VR headset is terribly unappealing, and well... certainly a lonely gaming experience. Add to that the prohibitive costs of the technology and I couldn't certainly see this straying farther from Nintendo's philosophy than it does.
With Virtual Boy, Nintendo was actually more interested in stereoscopic 3D than virtual reality. If the focus was VR, Virtual Boy would have much more games in 1st person other than Teleroboxer. VR was the hype du jour in the 1990's, but the technology was not really there to do it. With 3DS, they finally got the right technology to fulfil their vision. And without glasses!



K-Gamer said:

I would hate this, I did not mind the motion controls because they actually worked, but I would hate this.



unrandomsam said:

@Samurai_Goroh My dad has tried it (An in-law had a dev kit around Christmas) and he likes it. (Only ever played columns on the Game Gear before in his life - None gamer as far as it is possible to be really). There is nothing about it that precludes it being used in the same way the Virtual Boy was. (Or like the 3DS is).



Senario said:

Oh, Nintendo's Super Mario 3D World won the award for best multiplayer game at the awards show there! Good stuff.



ToastyYogurt said:

I normally don't question why certain news is reported on NL, but.... why is this news on NL? EA is clearly irrelevant to Nintendo nowadays, and I don't think the exploring of this modality is going to change that.

EDIT: For those pointing to the Virtual Boy as a sign that VR will fail: Don't forget that the biggest reason the VB failed was that horrible, headache-inducing red monochrome, and its bulky form that forced you to play with the thing on a table. Now that it's possible to throw a full-color screen into a lightweight device, I can see VR becoming more widely adopted. I'm not saying it won't be a failure, but I think it has chances for success. I can't see Nintendo easily embracing it though. They prefer to follow their own vision rather than current trends (Which is something I love about Nintendo. It's a business that's after its own ambitions rather than what will make them the most money in the short term, unlike EA and a lot of other American companies). Given the kind of games Nintendo mostly makes (read: not first person, the most sensible fit for a VR headset), I can't see them really wanting to embrace it.



ZurrrrBlattTron said:

Honestly I don't see VR a "Thing" in gaming for a while now it might come close to being one but it's not going to be the latest groundbreaking technology and it won't set a bar on Gaming consoles and that they HAVE to have virtual reality but it will be a nice side option or a different way of playing



ZurrrrBlattTron said:

For now I'm not interested in Nintendo adventuring into VR we already have the 3DS which is close enough at least wait till next generation ninty



ZurrrrBlattTron said:

@ToastyYogurt because here in NintendoLife our wonderful staff chooses what's truly appropriate for the Nintendo audience and what the Nintendo fanbase should truly be notified on!
(cough cough never posted on Ashley's assist trophy in Smash bros Wii u )
COUGH COUGH Felt the need to post a Google play Final fantasy Game HACKKKKK ugh scuse me



umegames said:

OH so EA has innovative plans for VR, but not for dual screens??? (DS and Wii-u)



ledreppe said:

Lol, I remember VR being all the rage back in the early - mid 90's. The buzz died out, but if people think they can bring it into mainstream gaming by improving it, then I'll keep an open mind. I've heard a VR set could be coming for PS4, and I have a PS4 so wouldn't buy a Wii U one, because if Ninty took up VR they probably wouldn't implement it until the next gen.



JaxonH said:

Hard to say whether VR will succeed in the marketplace, or just fade out. It USED to be a gamer's dream, but I think we've awoken to the realities of VR- like the fact you have a heavy headset, the price, etc. We'll see how it plays out. There WILL be products brought to market- the only question is, do we want that kind of experience?

Thing is, most normal games don't feel right in VR. Take your average shooter. Most people don't realize this, but run speeds average 40mph and eye-level height is around 9ft. In VR, it's awkward. So games must be specifically built for VR ground up. Which means, we'll need to buy a separate VR device with a separate game library, apart from the consoles we already own and play. If Sony releases a peripheral for PS4, it certainly won't be compatible with the normal game selection. That's something that must be considered.

I'm interested, but I'm thinking Occulus Rift is gonna be the way to go when the time comes. We'll see.



vattodev said:

I'm still not a believer of those VR games. From the experiences that I read, it messes up too much with a person's ballance. I'm not really sure how they will address that, but I see a hologram being a much more reasonable step than the VR glasses. But I don't see that coming in this generation. Maybe on arcades first.



rjejr said:

I'm all for coverage of VR in general or Occulus Rift in particular but if we could leave that companies name and mug out of the article it would be much appreciated. I understand it's an article about comments that guy made but it just really seems kind of unnecessary here. I'm all for articles about games the Wii U isn't going to get like Dark Knight b/c I do think that matters to people, but this just seems like an ad for the competition.

Guess thats what I get for checking NL on a Sunday night before going to bed. I'm blaming this article's presence on the time change. I hate springing ahead.



ikki5 said:

This line contradicts itself

"When we think about making games today, we think less about the technology or the means of experiencing the game, and we think more about the modality of play."

You need to think of the new technology in order to think of the modality of play in this day and age because as technology increases, so does modality .



Senario said:

@JaxonH Mention the Motion sickness plzzzzzz ): I really hate motion sickness which is why I can't support VR. It simply isn't compatible with me. Well that and I feel that VR is really only suited to First Person games, it just sounds so weird that you would go virtual reality but you are viewing your character in the third person.

@vattodev Yes, give me a holotable like in those movies. That would be cool and not motion sickness inducing.



SpookyMeths said:

"I'm sitting in my living room across from an 80-inch TV, 7.1 surround sound, and I want high-def, high fidelity, highly immersive entertainment."

Wow, this guy sure understands the target audience, doesn't he?



SCAR said:

I don't get how people think 3D is a gimmick, but then want it as a standard feature in VR sets... I guess people will just shut off the 3D mode, if they can?

VR has obviously seen enough improvements to make appearances to the public eye, but I don't think it will catch on. This is basically in line with motion control and 3D, so apparently being combined into one product has sparked interest?

EDIT: This technology already exists in the GamePad - Panaram View. The only difference is that it's a not headset and doesn't have 3D. Otherwise it's essentially the same. So technically all this could already be done on the GamePad, sans 3D.



banacheck said:

3D VR two totally different things, the Virtual Boy failing not surprised technology has come a long way since then. It all depends on price and software, also VR will be a try before you buy sort of thing at your local Game or something. It not like it'll be shown at E3 with new software much like how Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo does it. The marketing is what's going to make it or break it, because how do you market something you cannot show over a TV?



Trikeboy said:

Oculus Rift has the potential to turn into something great. Don't let EA anywhere near it.



thatguyEZ said:

Why is this on NL again? I mean I understand the Virtual Boy was the first dip into the VR waters but still. The Oculus Rift is awesome and I can't wait to see what Sony has up it's sleeve with their peripheral, I'd love to play Soma with a headset. But EA should keep clear of the two, the have a knack for driving anything awesome or potentially so into the ground and destroying it.



NodesforNoids said:

It's garbage Nintendo Life feels the desire to flame these articles, airing every little thing EA does, but I'll say this: the article reads 'We think VR can make alot of money and we like money. People are tired of current gaming (despite the PS4's immediate successes) and now we want to do something we THINK will make us boatloads of cash'.
For give me for saying this, but both Sony and MS were 110% behind 3D console games, Hollywood was 110% behind 3D home movies and now it's become a total niche. Add 400$ to that sticker price and get a dedicated 3D tv and pay 25% more for 3D Blu-ray discs. No thanks.
Nintendo succeeds with 3DS, month after month outselling their competition and so the tv big wigs say 'Nintendo's doing it? Screw it then, it's not cool enough for our 18-35 year olds who old want to see sex, drugs and gore!'
VR is a consumer unfriendly invention (like most 3D applications) that is far too limiting in scope. A technology that (contrary to advice from talking heads) is still very much in it's infancy. Rushing this kind of thing would (not could) would lead to physical trauma in enough players not to push things. Virtual big screen glasses? Fad. VR helmets? Fad. It's all just corporate brainstorming and nerdy guys going 'Look, now you're Link / Samus / Drake / Lara! Isn't that cool?'
Gaming has come away from dingy basements, Doritos encrusted hoodies, sweat stained t-shirts, Mom's house, loners on a Friday with no life, boy's clubs, man-child online fantasy sessions and sexless deviants. Let's not make gaming an anti-social doldrum again. Let's stay away from that isolationism and seclusion. Does the idea of a fully realized digital self, fully immersed in the game world sound appealing? It would be cool to actually be Link / a Skyrim character, yes. For an hour here or there. But not an all encompassing, secluded romp where the only human interactions are performed over fibrous cables from over miles of wires. It's a sad future and one I can't be a part of, not if that's what gaming becomes. Optional VR sounds great, but I'm sticking to my bread and butter basic tv, thanks.



Farmboy74 said:

Will VR take off, personally I don't know. Price of the headsets will be a big factor and also what games are available. It will be interesting to see how the Oculus Rift and Sony's headset pan out.



Melkac said:

Errr, Samantha...I honestly think these "news" has little to do with Nintendo. It's great to speculate that Nintendo may embrace VR in the future, but that's hardly article-worthy.

But that's just my opinion, of course.



StarDust4Ever said:

VR is good for a research tool, flight/space training, etc, but not very practical for consumers. Ditto for motion capture suits often used by CGI actors. Great idea having virtual arenas and stuff, even making the video game you play in a real physical world when you get real excercise but in practice, humans don't like to be severed from the world they live in. It's a scary place to go alone. Sitting on the couch doesn't take you out of that comfort zone; strapping into a VR machine certainly does. Fads aside, VR as a form of entertainment died in the 90s, and it will "die" again, despite the tech is mature now. Just look at Virtual Boy. Also, games as a form of entertainment often get spectators. I invited my mom and fiance into the room when I defeated the final Bowser on SM 3D World. Why? Audience. Bragging rights. I even turned off the 3D on my 3DS to share with my mom to watch the end credits of Zelda ALBW. All that is lost to VR games. You can't even snap a cheap screenshot of your achievement with a camera.



SCAR said:

Are you kidding? You can't even have VR without 3D. If you want VR, you're going to have to accept that 3D is a "thing".

Applying the same concept to the GamePad with its 9-axis would be a more hands off approach.

I don't get why they're making an IR version, though.

Sony has technically already been beat by Oculus Rift, because they had a $700 or so projector headset for any debice that didn't have motion. This is obviously better than that. If Oculus doesn't have compatibility with all 3D devices as a display, it will have missed one chain in the link.



JimLad said:

VR will be the next big thing mark my words.
I don't know if it will become the standard or phase out after a couple of years coughWiicough but I do know I will want it, no matter who makes it.
I've played the same kinds of games for for years now and I'm ready for something new.



Pod said:

"According to Wilson, the company must first study how people are currently playing games"

Well that should certainly be the first time in two decades that EA did any much of that sort.

On a related note, I believe virtual reality as a particularly profitable technology lies several "next big things" into the future.



May_Nyan said:

I don't like it... I don't trust these things. They'll probably cause horrible headaches and disorientation and stuff.



Remisio said:

@AVahne shiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeet that be awesome! Just... You know... Minus the: "Stuck in the game till you beat it and die in real life if you lose" part.

Also .Hack



MadAdam81 said:

Considering most people can't focus on something within 2 inches of their.eyes,.VR won't be easy. It's also kinda pointless, and not as fun as a 3D TV



Einherjar said:

"When we think about making games today, we think less about the technology or the means of experiencing the game, and we think more about the modality of play. So, how are you trying to interact with that game?"

Really ? I could swear that no company in the whole industry really cared about HOW you play a game and only cared about HOW it looked technologically. Well, besides Nintendo mind you, but who cares about them right ? They are the laughing stock for not caring about stuff besides how you interact with a game, cared about HOW you play it...



Shworange said:

If virtual reality takes off, some company will realease a visor designed to look like a virtual boy. That prediction is a lock.



ajcismo said:

EA could've had a great VR experience with a killer golf game on Wii U using the pad and wiimotes. Instead they go out of their way to alienate gamers for not supporting the platform they want supported.



Dark-Link73 said:

A great number of gamers hated motion controls, what makes EA et. al. that those gamers (and others) will embrace VR? Let's be honest, anything that makes this gamers get of the couch in order to game, they detest. Any controller input that feels slightly different than their precious XBOX/Dual Shock controllers, they detest. So, unless they fall into total famboyism and buy the clunky VR headsets just because their precious gaming companies made them, they'll detest VR sets as well.



Ren said:

yeah there seems to be a disconnect between what a cool demo is and what this actually means for sitting and gaming through a long adventure. What this offers is basically like the ability to look around at stuff (that isn't there) and wave our arms around at said stuff. In a demo this feels really cool and immersive but poses that same problem that all the lazy gamers complained about the wiimotes with. "I don't care! I just want to sit on my couch and kill stalfos'!" . I've been saying forever that there are indeed really cool ways to draw people into more interesting experiences and make them more physical but it's not necesarily about hardware inventions, it's about designing good deep software for any of it (i.e. the wasted potential of the wiimotes, until maybe skyward sword; and even then...). fine, get your panties in a bunch about glorified head tracking mini screens but until the software can really deliver stuff to match it won't mean much (1 year to buggy launches, 3-5 years to really good software, maybe longer for innovative, creative indies to do the same)



UnseatingKDawg said:

"When we think about making games today, we think less about the technology or the means of experiencing the game, and we think more about the modality of play. So, how are you trying to interact with that game?"

If you guys aren't thinking or worrying as much about the technology these days, then why are you going cold-turkey on Nintendo? Typical EA to not make friggin' sense.

In any case, I can see them butchering this up. Somehow they will, either with DLC, game-finishing DLC, or microtransactions.



shingi_70 said:

I think any VR headset will probably fail, outside of being a uber niche enthuists thing like Occlus Rift will be. For the most part add-on's made post console launch tend to fail and in all honestly Wii Balance board and Kinect were exceptions to the rule. A VR head set is on another whole level than those two from a pricing model. (Occlus dev kit is $400)

If the PS4 dev VR thing becomes a reality I'll probably pick one up for curisoitys sake, but I'm not expecting it to be any sort of success, other than getting the hardware out their so they can better iterate for next generation which is a longways off.



Platypus101 said:

This article is a joke, right? I mean, these are the same people that didn't care to work with the gamepad, and that was established technology! This would mean starting from scratch and taking a big financial risk. Two things EA is not known for, (Not verbatim, but it is what they have been stating since their exclusion of their Wii U support, To be kind)...they will probably last as long as their support for Wii U.



Yorumi said:

VR has too many problems to ever be successful. The 3d on the 3ds and on 3d TVs gives me a nasty headache, I can only use it for very limited amounts of time. I'm not alone in this, a sizable portion of 3d users(I've seen as high as 1/3 or more) experience the same thing. A VR headset is going to be no different at all.

Then there's the problem that it only really works in first person, so you have a limited number games that can even use it.

If they start combining it with motion controls and such you have an even greater problem. One of the nice things about video games is you can play them, doing all kinds of physically exhausting tasks, without the associated physical exhaustion. Just playing skyward sword is enough to become annoying after an hour. So lets push this down the road a bit when you're hooked up to a treadmill, and have motion sensing suits on. Aside from the ridiculousness of it, after an hour you're exhausted and think "oh I'd like to go relax and play a video... oh wait never mind."

The problem is without the motion controls it amounts to strapping on a bulky headset to get a glorified 3d effect, with the motion controls it quickly becomes exhausting. Simply put it's a fad that's going to pass because it's just not practical. People are expecting the Matrix, they're going to get a bulky 3ds and realize it really wasn't all that it was hyped up to be.



Great_Gonzalez said:

I don't think this will work ever I may be a bit uninformed but it just looks like a mini tv strapped to your head and it seems to operate like the AR games on the 3DS now while they were fun they didn't blow anyone away.

Also and I don't wanna sound lazy but I can't imagine the gaming population to take to a device where you have to stand up/sit up to play I could never stand up for hours on end with one of these things on my head.



MeloMan said:

So basically, "we want to do VR, it's awesome it's cool, it's the next wave".......... aaaaaand that's basically it. Gotcha.



retro_player_22 said:

VR gaming sux, I don't know why a lot of companies are wasting money making these useless peripherals. If I want to privately play a game, I would had just lock myself in my room with a TV and a console and play for hours. Having the thing stuck to my head so I can play first person ain't that exciting.



Zaphod_Beeblebrox said:

I have absolutely ZERO interest in VR gaming. None. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. I will spend $0.00 on VR gaming in my lifetime.

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