Once famous for its hip and cool Walkman portable music playing device, Sony (SNE - Get Report) has lacked a game-changing product in recent times.

But the tide may be about to turn.

Sony's calculated virtual reality gambit is extremely promising. With applications ranging from gaming, to entertainment, travel, training and even education, VR is projected to become a $70 billion market by 2020.

Sony, with its competitively priced VR headset for the PlayStation 4, could sell more than 2 million units this year alone, leaving behind the likes of FacebookHTC and Microsoft.

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The PlayStation VR is on sale now. The $399 device is expected to gain strong momentum, something that Sony needs amid a slowdown in areas such as smartphones.

Pre-order data have shown significant user/target audience interest. The PlayStation VR headset could sell about 2.6 million units this year, given that Sony has an installed base of more than 40 million PlayStation 4 consoles.

Sony's offering is cheaper than those of its rivals, with Facebook's Oculus Rift priced at $599 and HTC Vive's at $799.

PlayStation 4 is Sony's most successful console and has beaten Microsoft's Xbox One. Until Microsoft's Scorpio console is finally launched, there is no VR headset to take on Sony.

By releasing about 50 games -- not all full titles -- Sony has a clear strategy in place: use its massive content library, the popular gaming console and its growing VR capabilities to craft a competitive edge that rewards shareholders.

Games will include Star Wars property from Electronic Arts and the blockbuster Resident Evil from Capcom.

To boost early adoption of VR, Sony is also working on non-gaming content. For instance, positioning the PlayStation 4 as an entertainment platform where users will be able to access streaming services such as Netflix, as well as PlayStation's own online store, is a great idea.

The attempts at mainstreaming VR headsets is both bold and challenging. Like personal computers, these products could start off expensive and then see a price drop once demand kicks in.

Sony is playing the affordable card to gain VR users from among its PlayStation 4 users, another smart decision.

Much like Amazon, which is essentially targeting its Echo speaker buyers with its Unlimited Music offering, the trick is to carve out a market from a company's own trusted user base.

Sony's attempt at connecting its PlayStation 4 console and VR headset products makes a lot of sense. Its content library, digital display capacities and technological prowess can be easily wedded to its VR products, creating an all-around immersive experience.

With research indicating more than 170 million VR users by 2018, this could be another Walkman moment for Sony.

There are of course differing opinions on the possibilities of VR, with some suggesting that the hype will eventually recede.

These naysayers say that the headset technology isn't mature enough to find widespread and mainstream appeal.

But VR looks like a compelling opportunity for Sony to launch a revival. 

Trading at a forward price-earnings ratio of less than 16 times, the stock is a good buy considering that other VR plays such as Facebook (25.21 times) and InvenSense (24.9 times) are more expensive.


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The author is an independent contributor who at the time of publication didn't own any of the stocks mentioned.