Do you remember the good ol’ days where you could wander into your local GAME or EB and try out the latest console? Generally they were screwed into the walls and were permanently occupied by children who were left their by their parents or out of order. Over the last 5 or so years most, if not all, demo units have disappeared from retail outlets. This might be for a few reasons, the least of which is that the shops may be tired of being used as crèches.
With the latest technology in gaming being the totally new Virtual Reality there is an obvious desire for people to really try before they buy. For the English game retailer GAME this means that they are touring their stores across England with demo units to show all their customers how PS VR works. This alone is not all that unusual. What is unusual however, is that they are charging people for the right to play. £5 (aud$8) for 10 minutes.
As one can expect, this has caused a little bit of a stir. However, I believe that there are some fair points on both sides of the argument.
As a quick disclaimers, Sony has confirmed that the ability to charge is entirely at the discretion of the retailer. This means that while GAME might be charging, others who are involved in the wider promotion may not be. GAME has also responded by stating that those who then go on to purchase the VR unit may refund that cost against the price of the headset.
In favour of the charge, it means that the people who will be most enticed into the VR demo will be those who gain the most value from it. They will more quickly be able to give the headset a go, and have the peace of mind that they will not have to share during that period. They get a full X minute period where they don’t have to worry about being booted off. As the money spent on the demo can be moved into the cost of the headset, the demo then becomes an opportunity to confirm that their £350 (aud$560) would be money well spent. In this case the money is acting as a gatekeeper, it would make money from those who would play it without the intent to purchase, and provide a shorter line at no cost for those who do intend to spend. It makes sure that the most important audience gets a chance to try, and that is the people with the money.
This theory works as long as the there are enough people to keep it busy. If price for a demo means that people are not coming to see the PS VR, then this may present the unit as being a sub-par product. With a dollar value in the way, people who may be curious, but not willing to commit those pounds for a trial, may not get the opportunity to discover the power of VR, and by extension they may never become a customer. Adding this to the concern about the already high price to enter VR worries some. They believe that this extra cost may further the existing view that VR is going to be priced out of reach for most. For such a fledgling industry, especially one which must be experienced, all hands on time is exceptionally valuable. It lays the foundation not just for this generation of VR, but all future generations to come. People need to know.
So which side is right? Personally, I lean towards seeing the value in charging to play. However, I hope that it only happens for as long as is absolutely necessary and no more. As long as there are places that offer the demos for free then there will always be pressure for companies like GAME to drop the practice.
What do you think? Would you pay for 10, 20 or 30 minutes on a PS VR? Let us know below.