PlayStation VR has the power to make people give a shit.
At $549, it’s not just cheaper than it’s bigger competitors — it also comes with a huge market of potential consumers who’ve all already invested in Playstation. Remember, a $US649 ($860) Rift is really more like $2000 if you count the burly PC that’s capable of running it. More people own a PlayStation 4 than own a gaming computer with enough juice to handle a Rift or Vive. The current number of worldwide PS4 sales is a little under 38 million. The number of people with a graphics card capable of VR? Smaller.
Not only will it be cheaper for those millions upon millions of Playstation owners, the set up is going to be a lot easier, too. Because Sony is working with a known piece of computer hardware — Playstation 4 — it can make a very simple plug-and-play solution. (Yes, presumably Sony could still screw this up, but I want to give them the benefit of the doubt here.) One of the biggest problems with the glut of VR systems available is that they’re enthusiast only. You need a degree or a few years of gadget blogging to set up a Vive or a Rift dev kit. PS VR, on the other hand, is built for the same mainstream consumer the PS4 and previous accessories were built for. Say what you will about Playstation content and quality, but my Luddite best friend can still figure out how to plug it in to watch a Blu-ray.
The PS VR will also have a lot of games at launch. More than 230 game developers are working on projects for the platform, including developers you’ve actually heard of. Like Ubisoft and 2k Games. The Rift and Vive will have some games when they launch later this year. They will also probably have better graphics than the PS VR, which is unlikely to produce the same eye candy that a Nvidia Titan graphics card can churn out.
But affordability and accessibility are just as, if not more, important than capability and specs. At least when it comes to the general public.
I know what you’re thinking, you furious VR nut. You’re pointing to Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. “Those are affordable,” you shout at your phone. “They’re accessible!”
Yes. VR systems that work via an Android smartphone are affordable and accessible. They’re also virtually impossible to enjoy for longer than ten minutes. The lenses and how they focus on the phones leads to serious eye fatigue and the content available leads to serious boredom.
The PS VR, despite a whole mess of potential failings, sits in that sweet spot. It is the Trojan Horse. It’s sneaking through the public’s defences and unloading a swath of angry Greeks in skirts and my analogy has gotten away from me. But seriously. PS VR has the power to make people care.
Curmudgeonly suggestions courtesy of Mario Aguilar.