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Sony wants 500,000 players to try PlayStation VR in 2016

The upcoming PlayStation VR headset may be trailing behind its rivals, the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, in terms of its October release date, but Sony has plans to let prospective buyers test out the hardware ahead of its launch. PlayStation VP of Marketing John Koller has stated that the company expects to show off the headset to 500,000 potential customers before the end of 2016.

Koller’s comments came at a GameStop Investor’s Day presentation that was held last week. Koller described this effort to familiarize consumers with the tech prior to launch as “critical,” according to a report from Ars Technica.

“We need people to pick this up and play it. We need them to be transported,” Koller said at the event, emphasizing the experiential nature of virtual reality — something that even the most slickly produced trailer can’t really communicate. He went on to add that trials are “unequivocally the best thing we can do for the technology and the platform.”

Related: Sony exec hints PlayStation VR might not be exclusive to the PlayStation 4

This marketing push will seemingly set PlayStation VR apart from the Rift and the Vive. While those headsets are currently building awareness via word-of-mouth, neither looks likely to have anywhere near as large an in-store presence as that being planned for PlayStation VR.

Given that most PC gamers will typically used online storefronts like Steam to purchase new releases, brick-and-mortar retailers are now more interested in the console market. That’s reflected by comments made during the presentation by Gamestop COO Tony Bartel, who stated that Sony’s VR outing will have the “strongest launch titles” as well as the largest install base for the new technology.

While other headsets have already taken off among enthusiasts, it’s mainstream audiences that will decide the fate of the VR boom. It’s smart for Sony to give anyone on the fence an opportunity to test out the hardware in-store — but there’s plenty of work to be done if PlayStation VR is to really compete.

PlayStation VR is set to launch in October 2016, and will retail for $400.