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Technology

Sony brings big guns to virtual reality at game expo

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A user experiences virtual reality at an event held by Sony in Los Angeles on June 13.   © Reuters

LOS ANGELES -- The world's largest annual video game conference and show kicked off here Tuesday, the day after a Sony unit made a flurry of announcements further cementing the idea of 2016 as the year of virtual reality.

Sony Interactive Entertainment used a news conference Monday ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo to unveil VR titles for such major franchises as Square Enix Holdings' "Final Fantasy" and Capcom's "Resident Evil." Most VR games to date have come from startups.

As the Sony group member responsible for the PlayStation brand, SIE plans to steer the hugely popular PlayStation 4 console into the virtual reality age and take a leading role in the VR game market, with 50-plus titles available before the end of the year.

Unlike conventional games, VR games take up the entire field of vision for a fully immersive experience.

A number of companies have developed the head-mounted displays that make such gaming possible, including Facebook-owned American startup Oculus VR, Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC, and Samsung Electronics of South Korea.

Sony joins this club with the PlayStation VR, a virtual reality headset for the PS4.

SIE will release the PS VR on Oct. 13 but has already begun accepting preorders in the U.S. and Europe. It will start taking preorders in Japan on Saturday. Preorders have already sold out in some markets, according to President Andrew House.

Total global sales of the PS4 surpassed 40 million units in record time, and the gap with Microsoft's Xbox One console continues to widen. Hopes are high that the PS VR is just what the PS4 needs to solidify its lead.

Microsoft announced Monday the newest member of the Xbox family, the Xbox One S, as well as a system dubbed the Scorpio that will feature both VR compatibility and 4K-resolution video output.

New game systems traditionally come out once every six to seven years, but Microsoft intends to release the Scorpio at the end of 2017. Compressing the cycle in this way reflects the competition consoles now face from online games for such platforms as computers and smartphones. Newer, better smartphones arrive every year, and some already nearly match consoles in performance.

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