Today, we’ll talk about another major player at the Korea Electronics Show 2017, the nation’s largest consumer electronics and technology tradeshow. The company we want to introduce here is SKONEC Entertainment, a leading virtual reality game maker. Let’s hear from company director Song Chae-hoon.
SKONEC Entertainment has developed console and arcade games since it was set up in April 2002. Online games dominated the local gaming market in the 2000s, while mobile games spread in the 2010s. As expected, the market for console and arcade games has been sluggish. We wondered how to revive and even expand the market. We happened to know Oculus’ head-mount display or HMD device known as Developer Kit 1. As soon as we wore it, we felt that this would create a new content market in the future. We decided to concentrate on something we were good at, namely, content development, and began to work on virtual reality or VR content.
SKONEC Entertainment is a game software developer known for a game designed to teach Chinese characters, which sold 200-thousand units in South Korea alone. The company has developed various sensor technologies and input devices in the process of working on online games, arcade games and console video games. In 2013, the company saw an HMD device unveiled by VR headset maker Oculus. It knew by intuition that the era of VR games had begun. In developing VR headsets, it is important to combine the content with the head movements of a user. This sensor technology was something that SKONEC was confident about. To stay ahead in the promising VR game market, the company was committed to research and development. In 2015, it released a game called “Mortal Blitz” to attract global attention.
We introduced a commercialized version of Mortal Blitz in 2015. The Gear VR version was the world’s first gun shooting game. The most distinctive feature of the game was the realistic shooting. Here, space was added as a new experience. In previous games, users simply looked at the screen to deal with enemies. But using the VR technology, the new game gives users a 360-degree field of view to handle enemies from every direction. It was a whole new experience. Those who experienced the game for the first time would ask, “Is this really possible?” The Gear VR was a mobile version, but it was well received for its better-than-expected quality.
Set in the future, the gun shooting game is about a battle between humans and artificial intelligence. After inserting a smartphone into a Samsung Galaxy Gear VR headset to start the game, a 360-degree view of a bleak basement floor unfolds before you. When playing the game, it feels like you are all alone. When you turn your head or open a door, you are confronted by enemies from all directions. The scenes are so vivid that it is hard to believe that it is a VR game, which is completely different from smartphone or computer games. Moreover, SKONEC resolved the problem of motion sickness, the biggest weakness of VR games.
The VR system was optimized to prevent dizziness. A mobile version supporting at least 60 frames per second and a computer version with more than 90 frames per second can prevent motion sickness. Plus, it is necessary to add various techniques for increasing the frames but still maintaining the graphic quality. We have accumulated our own expertise, including ways to ease motion sickness, in the process of developing 20 different VR games. We have also developed a walking VR attraction game, which uses an optical camera to allow users to actually walk around to enjoy the game. That means something that is happening in the real world can also occur in the same way in virtual space. When it comes to these innovative technologies, we’re certainly ahead of others.
For users, a VR world is a new environment they had never experienced before. For that reason, the application of the previous computer environment may cause serious motion sickness. SKONEC was able to solve this problem by increasing the frame rate. Also, the VR game is designed to enable users to adjust to and get immersed in the VR environment naturally by allowing them to observe and research it between brief battles. In this way, the SKONEC game minimized the negative side effects of VR games to produce a quality product. It is little wonder that it has been favorably reviewed in the VR game market.
We released PlayStation VR in North America, Europe and Asia in April this year. Thankfully, our product ranked first in terms of the number of downloads. We first launched PlayStation VR in 2016, and we recently celebrated its first anniversary. I hear it came in 15th place in global VR content rankings. We appreciate the positive response from users around the world.
After making inroads into the North American, European and Asian markets, SKONEC has also advanced to Sega VR Area Akihabara, which is a VR entertainment center run by world-renowned Japanese game company Sega Entertainment, as well as an indoor-type theme park in Qingdao, China. Furthermore, the company is moving beyond the realm of games and producing various fusion and convergence content encompassing different industries.
We’re making great efforts to develop not only games but various other VR content as well, including a medical training system involving surgical instruments and an English education program. Our VR content is not only limited to games or entertainment, but will serve as a useful tool to fuse or connect different industries in the fourth industrial revolution. We’ll continue to develop relevant content.
SKONEC believes that games will comprise the most important part of the VR market, which is expected to be worth 38 billion US dollars in the year 2020, since the elements of games are similar to that of the VR industry, in which people communicate in a virtual space. At present, the company is developing various types of VR hardware and platforms. SKONEC is a leader in the VR game market and also a pioneer who opens up a new way in the next-generation VR content market.