MLB Goes Deep With Home Run Derby VR

Fans can take virtual swings in virtual batting cages at real-life ballparks

The Home Run Derby is about to become a year-round event, thanks to the launch of MLB Home Run Derby VR for the Sony PlayStation and HTC Vive headsets. Twelve MLB ballparks are hosting in-venue virtual batting cages that allow fans to take a virtual swing in a virtual version of the ballpark.

“It’s in some great ballparks, and lots of the clubs are featuring the experience,” says Peter Banks, director of marketing, games, and VR, MLB Advanced Media. “They seem to like it so far. We supply the software and as much support as we can. Everyone is doing it a little differently, and the feedback we’re getting is, the fans are enjoying it.”

Washington’s Nationals Park is one of three ballparks rendered in the first version of MLB Home Run Derby VR.

Priced at $19.99, the game is a robust package designed to get the most out of the processing horsepower provided by the Sony PlayStation and the HTC Vive headset, which runs on the SteamVR platform. According to Banks, the price point is competitive, given the amount of game play offered, the price of competitive VR games, and the level of experience the platforms can deliver.

“On the PC, you can crank up the frame rate and resolution as high as you want,” he explains, “while the PlayStation is a really beautiful setup and has the most widely distributed high-power VR user base at around 2 million.

The first version offers three ballparks: Marlins Park in Miami (host of last year’s Home Run Derby), Nationals Park in Washington (home of this year’s Derby), and Progressive Field in Cleveland (home of next year’s).

“The ballparks are really lovingly rendered,” Banks points out. “A lot of the assets were built for other products, so we had a good starting point with rough models.”

The development team is also working closely with the teams, and, when the staffers at the teams see the stadium in VR, they can help fill in missing elements.

The current lineup of stadiums comprises Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago White Sox, Houston, Miami, Minnesota, Oakland, St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, and Washington.

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