Betting on VR, EA CEO says it may be the fourth ‘modality’ of gaming

[From Tech Times]

EA building

[Image: EA is considering working on virtual reality gaming. CEO Andrew Wilson says VR gaming may be the fourth “modality” of gaming. (Photo: Eliot Lash)]

EA bets big on virtual reality games but when can we expect them?

By Alex Saltarin, Tech Times | March 11, 2014

At the Las Vegas CES last January, we’ve seen a taste of what’s to come with the latest incarnation of the Oculus Rift. At the South by Southwest (SXSW) show in Austin, EA’s CEO hinted that the company is also exploring what it can do to virtual reality gaming.

Aside from Oculus Rift, Valve is also busy working on their own VR prototype gaming system. Moreover, Sony has also expressed its interest in building their own VR hardware. However, VR gaming will never take off without good software, and EA may be considering on tackling the upcoming VR market.

EA CEO Andrew Wilson has broken down currently available video gaming experiences into three modalities. These modalities include “Lean Back,” “Lean In” and “Lean Over” experiences. However, Wilson also shared that VR gaming may present a fourth modality that gamers may soon enjoy.

“There’s clearly a desire to add a modality of play to the three we’re currently focused on,” said Wilson during a panel at the SXSW.

Regardless of the platform or console involved, physical interaction is a defining point in terms of gaming. Many players are also putting system specifications into the backseat in favor of the experience of gaming 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,” Wilson said. “So, how are you trying to interact with that game?”

By breaking down the gaming experience into different modalities, it can be easier to understand the full spectrum of options the video game industry currently has to offer.

“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,” Wilson said. “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 “lean back” and “lean in” modalities have dominated the video game industry over the past couple of decades. However, improvements in technology have transformed mobile devices into powerful gaming platforms opening up a new frontier that video game software developers quickly dove into.

“The third is the ‘lean over,’ that mobile modality, whether it’s a phone or a tablet, but this idea of ‘I’m here and I’m playing like this,’” Wilson said, illustrating how a player might loom over their smartphone.

As the mobile video game industry continues to mature, VR systems currently under development may soon usher in a new era in the video game industry. Naturally, EA wants in on this up-and-coming technology that may soon be worth billions of dollars.

“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.”


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