The day has finally arrived and we now know exactly how much PSVR is going to cost and when we’re going to be able to buy one ourselves. PSVR is releasing to the masses in October and will retail at $399 (£349). The $399 price point came as a pleasant surprise for many that feared the headset would be priced higher considering rivals like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have been priced considerably higher, which puts PSVR $200 cheaper than the Oculus and $400 cheaper than the Vive. The affordable price point could be one of the biggest factors going for the headset and definitely secure it’s place as the entry level VR device and now analysts are predicting that this will be crucial to PSVR’s success.
However, as with most peripheral devices, companies can only expect to maximise sales potential by offering compelling software to go alongside the peripheral and entice people to buy it. The Wii had Wii Sports, Kinect had titles like Kinect Sports and Sony are looking to their first party studios to provide games like the Until Dawn spinoff ‘Rush of Dawn’ or the Gran Turismo spinoff ‘Gran Turismo: Sport. However, as we know with the Wii peripheral and the Kinect, these devices have their time in the sun but ultimately they die off. Microsoft in particular came under pressure for putting studios like Rare on the Kinect game-developing ensemble and many were left disappointed with the ‘shovelware’ Rare made compared to their gems of the past.
We’ve seen this before with Nintendo’s VR-like solution in the 1990’s which had the problem of it being so hotly anticipated at a time when everyone was fascinated with VR and had huge expectations for it. Sadly, the technology wasn’t enough to generate immersive 3D worlds and thus failed to live up to expectations. Technology has come a far way since then but it’s highly doubtful we’ll see a game like Uncharted 4 running on PSVR anytime soon.
The problem that PSVR and other external peripherals before it face is the fact that these devices simply aren’t at a point in their techonological development whereby they are powerful and cost-effective enough to be released to the masses. PSVR is already starting to show signs of this with games not exactly looking as impressive as the rivals Oculus Rift with games like Modern Zombie Taxi definitely not looking as impressive as some games running on the Rift. Sony are seemingly aware of this with Sony Computer Entertainment vice president Masayasu Ito telling Polygon that“If you just talk about the high-end quality, yes, I would admit that Oculus may have better VR.”
PSVR is still a fair few months away from going public but already it seems like games are having to be downgraded in order to run on the device. In the case of Driveclub, it seems that the transition to PSVR resulted in a loss of detail. Fewer cars are allowed – down to eight from the original 12 – and there’s less trackside detail, simpler weather effects and no rear-view mirrors.
The thing that serves to worry me is how many resources Sony is pumping into its PSVR headset and whether they’ll repeat the same things Microsoft did with the Kinect and degrade their own established franchises for the sake of the peripheral device. This fear is accentuated by the fact that it seems Sony are putting their first party studios to work on developing VR games and the fruition of that work so far looks pretty weak with games like Modern Zombie Taxi Co. definitely not looking like must-own titles.
Third party support looks pretty good right now with Kaz Hirai telling the BBC that “I think the fact that we have more than 200 developers signed up to the PlayStation VR program who are working on probably more than 100 titles that will play on PlayStation VR, is a testament to the kind of support that we’re getting from the content creation community on PlayStation VR.” And with games or versions of games including: Tekken, Star Wars Battlefront, ARK: Survival Evolved, Project Cars, War Thunder and more on board, it seems that PSVR should have a fairly healthy amount of 3rd party support, at least early on.
However, the problem that peripherals face is that software sales soon die down. This is a problem that the Wii faced when it almost completely lost all third party support and a problem that the Kinect faced after they hype and excitement died down. The fear is that Sony may then look to their first party studios to make up the gap if third parties don’t jump on board in droves and then there’s the simple economic term of opportunity cost. This means that the resources and time used for Sony’s first party studios to make VR games would then be time and resources that can’t be spent on actual PS4 games which is the device that 36m+ gamers bought into.
It’s unsure yet whether PSVR will be a huge success or not but it begs the question whether that really matters? Even if PSVR doesn’t take off in the mainstream that shouldn’t downplay the enjoyment any fans of VR get out of it. The fact is that Sony is offering a cheaper-than-average entry into the re-emerging VR market and they should be applauded for taking such a risk. PSVR definitely looks promising but I hope that PSVR doesn’t hold back already established PlayStation franchises with gimmicky games.