PlayStation VR, Killer Apps and Skepticism Over the Future
Just how strong is the PlayStation VR’s staying power?
Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are out and about but the most interesting device is one that’s still months away from release. Of course we’re referring to the PlayStation VR (the article heading should have been enough indication). At $399, it will be the most affordable VR headset this generation and it’s incredible in its own right. You’d think Sony could just coast by on the success of its PlayStation 4, market an affordable VR solution and call it a day. Despite its earnest efforts with the PlayStation Eye and Move, both those devices pretty much came across as just “phoning it in” a year after their releases.
PlayStation VR appears to have a bigger plan. Although, both those devices also had a plan and look how they turned up – as mere accessories for use with the headset. I digress though.
"More than the price point for PlayStation VR and more than the overall install base of the PlayStation 4 who will pick it up, one’s concern lays firmly on the games."
The PlayStation VR is going to be a success – that’s pretty much a given at this point. The VR medium is intriguing at this point because of the enthusiasm towards Rift and Vive. Both devices have their advantages and disadvantages but they have their followers. They have their games as well…right?
More than the price point for PlayStation VR and more than the overall install base of the PlayStation 4 who will pick it up, one’s concern lays firmly on the games. You could make the argument that many VR titles releasing on PlayStation VR will also be heading to Rift and Vive, and we’d agree. And the issue doesn’t become, “Why pick up a PlayStation VR when you can get those games on other devices right now?”
That’s because there will be plenty of people on PS4 who don’t want to upgrade their computer and then drop several hundreds of dollars more on a VR headset. Whether it knows it or not, Sony is in the right place, at the right time yet again with an affordable solution for its huge install base. Granted, firms like Strategy Analytics estimate that cheap mobile VR devices will make up 90 percent of total units sold this year. But no one really accounted for the PlayStation 4 becoming so successful, so quickly.
"It’s the spacing between these killer apps that’s worrying. VR as a medium isn’t one that seems capable of supporting 20+ hour experiences."
When you look back at the success of the PlayStation 4, it’s hard not to notice a pattern. In the past year or more, there haven’t been a ton of exclusives for the console. Now, we’re not going to pretend that games like Bloodborne, Until Dawn and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (despite being a remaster collection, it’s still great) don’t exist. They’ve been amazing and provided countless hours of fun for PS4 fans. However, there weren’t exactly a heaping helping of killer apps in that space. We’re not even pointing at the number of games Microsoft released in the interim. And in fact, there will be more exclusives with Ratchet and Clank out this month and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End coming next month.
It’s the spacing between these killer apps that’s worrying. VR as a medium isn’t one that seems capable of supporting 20+ hour experiences. Sooner or later, the novelty of exploring wide open spaces in first person will wear off. Story-telling, game design and unique gameplay will once again become the hook. Yes, everything looks unique but what about a year or two from now? Motion controller gaming looked like the future but now pretty much everyone has abandoned it in the current generation.
This especially makes skepticism for PlayStation VR and Sony high because of its inconsistency, from releasing exclusive titles to pushing its new technologies. It may be hyping up Rez Infinite, Star Wars Battlefront and whatnot for the headset but what after that? It’s not even an issue which a simple E3 presentation could fix. Rather, it’s about Sony keeping constant communication with its audience and telling them what’s next. Much like what it does with the PlayStation 4. This all sounds like common sense but again, it is Sony and it has had issues with accessories in the past.
"Regardless, it’ll be worth tuning into E3 2016 to see what Sony has planned for the immediate future. Its plan may not turn heads but if it sets a solid foundation for PlayStation VR’s future, that will be enough."
Don’t worry, the apocalypse isn’t night for VR headsets or for Sony’s PlayStation VR. Unlike with the Move or Eye, the PlayStation VR will be a success before its even launched. If it does indeed follow the PS4’s momentum, it could see several millions of units within its first quarter. It’s just that when you combine Sony’s tendency to release its exclusives after large gaps with its start-stop approach with past trends, you have to wonder if either of those will bode well for PlayStation VR in the long-run. What happens if the medium itself takes a down-turn? There are numerous possibilities.
Regardless, it’ll be worth tuning into E3 2016 to see what Sony has planned for the immediate future. Its plan may not turn heads but if it sets a solid foundation for PlayStation VR’s future, that will be enough. Sony hasn’t thrived for this long in the console war without knowing what it’s doing and it obviously has a plan of sorts if it’s investing this much into VR. Heck, the PlayStation VR may be its most expensive “accessory” till date, bordering on a brand new platform. Even with its less than ideal reputation allowing for skepticism, there’s still a hope that things will turn out differently.