British high street games retail chain, Game, is charging its customers for demo time on Sony’s PlayStation VR headset. Prices vary across the participating Game stores, with the most frequently advertised rate we’ve seen on social media being £5 per 10 minutes – or about a penny a second.
We all know that the only way to sell people on VR is to encourage them to try it for themselves, but we never expected Sony to hide the experience behind a pay-to-play barrier.
Paying for demos on the high street is unprecedented, so we approached Sony to find out if it acknowledges the scheme. Their spokesperson told us,
“Our pay-to-play PlayStation VR experience is a GAME-led initiative. The cost to use the in-store PS4 pod is entirely refundable for customers that go on to buy either the headset or a PS4 console. The payment allows us to ensure that we have dedicated staff manning the PlayStation VR pods who have been fully trained to adhere to best practice demo guidelines. The demos are intended to give our customers access to one of the most exciting new gaming technologies in 2016 and provide them with the opportunity to get a feel for VR before they commit to buy.”
Disingenuous Demo Costs
Of course VR demos need staffing and that isn’t free, but the suggestion that the fee charged is simply to cover costs seems disingenuous. The revenue generated at a rate of £5 per 10 minutes could be as much as £30 per hour, realising up to £24.60 profit per hour (assuming minimum wage of £5.30 per hour for a dedicated member of staff – who likely has other store duties when not demoing, further reducing applicable business spend - hardware cost at nil and negligible power consumption).
Through this scheme alone, Game could realise profits of up to £44,120 per day (assuming an average of 8.5 opening hours across 211 stores). If the £30 hourly rate is spent on ‘dedicated staff... who have been fully trained’ as per Sony’s statement, then that equates to an annual salary of £62,400 (assuming eight hours per day, five days per week).
Where do we sign up?
The demo charge may well weed out the timewasters who have no inclination to purchase the hardware and just want to ‘try it’, but aren’t those the kind of consumers the VR industry as a whole needs to convert? How many potential customers will be lost for want of a fiver?
It seems from the statement issued to us that Sony is onside with the scheme, which doesn’t tally with Sony’s own response to UploadVR, when they said, ““Retailers run in-store activity at their own discretion.”
So, is it ‘Our pay-to-play PlayStation VR experience’, or an instore activity run ‘at their own discretion’? Either way, social media has exploded with negative feedback for both companies; some well reasoned, others more, erm... emotional. We’ve presented a selection of the more family friendly examples.
We’ve asked Sony for clarification and will update this story when we hear more.