When Oculus Rift was priced at $599.99, followed by HTC Vive’s $799.99 announcement, we knew one thing was certain: virtual reality is going to be expensive. And that doesn’t even take in to account the cost of a PC rig worthy of running either one.
At Sony’s GDC presentation today, Playstation confirmed that their foray in to the realm of VR would release later this fall in October. Not only will Playstation VR reach the masses later than their competition (Oculus Rift releases in March, HTC Vive in April), but will be significantly cheaper as well, priced at $399.99.
According to Sony, more than 50 games will be available this year for PS VR and 230 development studios are currently working on games for the headset, ranging from “smaller independent teams to larger studios at the industry’s top publishers.” A Playstation VR-exclusive Star Wars Battlefront game was confirmed during the conference.
So with PS VR’s release window and pricing confirmed, let’s talk about a few pros and cons. Feel free to weigh in down in the comment section.
The cost of entry: It’s been stated by numerous sources that the average cost of a PC to run Oculus Rift is around $1,500.00. Playstation VR’s entry point is only $399.99, and as a gaming console it will never require hardware upgrades throughout the course of its entire lifespan.
Right now Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are only catering to the VR enthusiast crowd with money to burn, not the everyday consumer. Sure, PS VR is the weakest of the three, but it’s also trying to reach the largest market possible.
“The biggest advantage for Sony is our headset works with PS4. It’s more for everyday use, so it has to be easy to use and it has to be affordable. This is not for the person who uses a high-end PC. It’s for the mass market.” -Playstation VP Masayasu, Polygon interview
The install base: As of the latest sales report, Sony is sitting on 36 million Playstation 4 console sales with no sign of slowing down. According to a Gamespot post from February 26th, 2016, Playstation 4 is projected to reach over 100 million worldwide sales during its lifespan.
This would place the PS4 in to an elite club, as only six game consoles have ever reached that milestone–two of which are Playstations (1 & 2).
With such a massive (and affordable) install base, Playstation VR may be the place to experience VR for those of us primarily interested in the games side of the booming technology. It could also be the best place to start for casual consumers, since the average person isn’t going to meet the minimum requirements on their PC or a $400 laptop from Best Buy.
By the time PC hardware is affordable enough to equal the cost of a PS4, we’ll be well on to the next console generation. And with that in mind, you’re looking at a good 4 or 5 years of PS VR experiences.
Supports all of your PS4 games in some way: Whether it’s a simple cinematic view, similar to playing your games on a huge virtual flatscreen, or full-on VR support, all PS4 games will be supported by PS VR.
If you’re a fan of Kinda Funny Games you’re probably familiar with Greg and Colin’s selling point of using VR as way to leave the real world behind and fully immerse yourself in the experience. A new way to play, so to speak.
Even without full VR support, you’ll be able to strap on the headset, put on a pair of headphones, and block out the distractions of the outside world (like loud neighbors, barking dogs, or, heaven forbid, a fire breaking out in your kitchen).
I live in a studio with my girlfriend and our three cats. It’s hard to fully immerse myself in to a game, since the cats are always chasing each other around, knocking shit over, hissing, or snoring. Although she’s an avid gamer, my girlfriend and I don’t always play games together.
PS VR could be a way to take myself out of the room without actually leaving, and that’s a potential selling point for a lot of people living in busy households.
You’ll need more than just the PS VR headset: While Playstation VR is launching by itself at $399.99, it does require (yes, require) a Playstation Camera to function, which is sold separately.
EDIT: Earlier today (3/16/2016) Sony confirmed that a bundle will be offered as well, which includes the PS VR headset, a Playstation Camera, and one Playstation Move wand.
The MSRP for the PS Camera is $59.99, but they’ve gone on sale as low as $25 at numerous retailers. It’s a cheap add-on, but it’s worth noting that it’s not included in the price tag.
Playstation Move controllers are not included in the price tag either, although Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann reported from the GDC conference on Twitter, stating “most of the games at this event are using Dual Shocks, not Move wands.” His opinion of the included earphones weren’t promising, calling them “pretty weak“, but we’ll have to wait and see how they’re received by consumers this October.
But hey, at least you get a free download of The Playroom, which includes 6 mini-games, right?
It’s the cost of a PS4, but with significantly less games: Having 50 games to play by the end of the year for any new console isn’t something to scoff at, but without a confirmed line-up of must-play titles, it’s going to be a hard sell to casual consumers (even at a more affordable price than their VR competitors).
My general rule of thumb is not to buy a console unless it’s worth its price in games, and right now I don’t know if these 50 games are actual games or just glorified VR tech demos. I can’t not compare it to the Playstation Move or the Xbox Kinect, where the ideas were cool but they were little more than novel party games with little staying power.
Sony has a knack for abandoning things that aren’t Playstation home consoles: Playstation Move, Playstation Vita, as soon as they showed no signs of advancing, Sony quietly swept them under the rug. If PS VR doesn’t pan out quickly enough, or isn’t received well by its consumers, who’s to say Playstation won’t follow suit and brush aside the peripheral to refocus on the wildly successful PS4?
On the flip side, if this proves to be a victory for Playstation it’ll only improve the sales figures of PS4. Sony has invested a ton of resources in to PS VR, so I don’t think they’ll give up that quickly. But I can’t help but look over their track record for failing peripherals and wonder if consumers should wait this one out.
I’m only interested in the games side of virtual reality right now, but the more I hear about virtual tourism and other non-game functionality, the more I kind of want that. Being able to pop on a VR headset and watch the Baltimore Orioles play inside of Camden Yards from the comfort of my own home in South Carolina would be awesome. We’re a ways off from that, so right now I’m content just focusing on games.
That being said, my PC won’t run Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headsets, so I’m looking at PS VR to fit my virtual reality wants (rather than needs–because, let’s be honest, I don’t need VR in my life). I already own a PS4. I know that I’ll never have to buy any hardware upgrades. I’m okay with it being a weaker unit, as long as it’s comfortable and functional.
But am I going to buy one at launch? Absolutely not. I’m interested. I’m curious. But I’m not sold yet. I want to see how it’s received first, and (more importantly) I want to make sure there’s games I actually want to play.
What about you? Interested in PS VR? What’s your take on the price, release date, and hardware?