PlayStation VR at $399 is the Best Hope for Mainstream VR Gaming

Posted on 07/11 02:40 in | 0

Sony Computer Entertainment has finally given us a firm release date for PlayStation VR, the planned virtual reality headset peripheral for the PlayStation 4. PlayStation VR will cost $399/£349 and Sony is planning on releasing the headset on October 2016. The final specifications of the headset are as follows:

Sony Computer Entertainment America PR manager Andrew Kelly told USgamer that the $399 PlayStation VR bundle is for users with the PlayStation Camera. So the price is really $459. It's possible there may be more expensive bundles forthcoming.

Sony says that over 230 developers are making PlayStation VR content and announced a partnership with EA to bring Star Wars: Battlefront exclusively to the platform. The company expects that around 50 games will launch alongside the console.

"It's just the relative progression of any new media," Yoshida explained previously when asked about PSVR software support. "When the content side starts investing, you usually start small. And with VR, small games can have a very significant impact, and that's more preferable. I've been saying that [to developers]: 'Don't start to write big design documents. If you do that while you're working on something long-term, the whole industry will learn a lot and you'll discover half of what you set out to do will become obsolete. So focus on finding great experiences, and packaging it to deliver, and keep doing that.'"

If Sony did anything correct this time around, it's a matter of setting expectations. The company wants this to be a "mass market" headset, but it has to stand alongside the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in technology, while aiming at a lower price point. For the tech, $399 is a solid price and Sony shaved a bit off the top by not having to include a controller with every headset.

Sony's Shuhei Yoshida anchored the price of the PlayStation VR prior to the announcement, telling Polygon that Sony considers the headset like a console launch, not a peripheral one. That brought the suspected price up to at least $299, but $399 is right in the ballpark and well below the $599 and $799 price tags of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

This is still in early-adopter territory, but given the fact that 36 million PlayStation 4 systems are already out there, Sony is hoping that consumers aren't counting the sunk cost of the console. For the average PC players, the price of the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive also requires upgrades to their desktop rig. For PlayStation VR, the PS4 is all you need. Of course, the question then becomes: is the PlayStation 4 powerful enough to drive great VR content? It's probably not powerful enough to handle some of the more robust games built for the Rift and Vive, but sometimes "good enough" technology is all you need.

The major fault of PlayStation VR is the PS4 is a closed platform. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive developers work with the PC, which is an open to all. Developers have had more chances to play around with the Rift and see what works. It also means devs can throw out small experiements that players can download for free on a whim. Sony doesn't have the same benefit.

One area Sony can draw on that Oculus and HTC probably won't is Japanese developers. Like Summer Lesson, a planned PlayStation VR game coming from Bandai Namco's Tekken team, Sony's VR push can call of the folks behind games like Dark Souls, Shin Megami Tensei, Final Fantasy, Dragon's Dogma, and more. Those Japanese developers are important to certain gamers and PlayStation VR has ready access to them.

This GDC has shown that virtual reality is planned as the next big thing by many developers and platform holders. Whether that idea pans out is based on execution, but until then, Sony looks to be heading in the right direction when it comes to PlayStation VR. Looking forward to October.

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