As we draw ever closer to October 13th the launch of Sony’s first virtual reality device Playstation VR I grow curious to what Sony brings to the VR space. While the devices qualities give it a leg up on its rivals, Sony’s history with Playstation peripherals tells a less encouraging story.
Playstation VR versus Competitors
As a high end VR device, it doesn’t match its competitors in terms of power, but the plug and play factor of Sony’s PS VR with the PS 4 and PS camera required to run the unit gives Playstation VR the edge. Oculus and Vive both require high end pc specs to run and the devices themselves cost more than all the Playstation hardware combined. Graphics aren’t as important to consumers as affordability and accessibility.
Sony’s cheaper price and easy to use mentality put them in pole position to take the majority share in this relatively new market. The demand for units seems to have even surprised Sony. Two allocated pre-order shipments have sold out fast and the prospect of buying a unit on launch day without a pre order may prove difficult.
In preparation for Playstation VR’s release Sony’s experience as a platform holder is seemingly paying dividends as the company uses long established relationships with third party publishers with the likes Capcom with Resident Evil 7 and EA with Star Wars Battlefront providing exclusive VR content for their platform.
Facebook and Valve for all their resources and success simply don’t have the same strong third party ties to match Sony. While none of the games Sony’s shown says killer app there’s a steady output of Playstation VR games for launch and after launch. Titles such as Rigs: Mechanized Combat, Batman VR and the before mention Resident Evil 7 more than justify the units purchase.
Is VR Here to Stay?
Virtual Reality is a new way to experience games with developers still working towards more fleshed out experiences that are playable for more sustainable periods of time. While most VR games aren’t long in comparison to standard triple A titles I don’t agree with certain media pundits calling them experiences instead of games as though the length or replay ability of a VR title means it’s undeserving of being labelled as such.
Games media cannot arbitrarily dismiss VR titles as just experiences as oppose to games based on length or quality. Whether a game’s 15 minutes or 60 hours, whether a game’s GTA 5 or Aliens: Colonial Marines it’s still a game for better or worse in the way Jaws and Jaws the Revenge are both movies despite one being a classic and the other being a garbage truck on fire.
Sony’s Commitment to VR
As excited as the potential of Playstation VR is as a new and deeply engaging way to experience media even beyond the realm of games I remain skeptical about Sony’s commitment to VR in the long term. The VR market remains a relatively unknown entity but there’s a finite amount of space in every market and Sony while well positioned in the VR race aren’t guaranteed success.
No matter how often Shuhei Yoshida and other executives say VR is integral to the next twenty years of Playstation Sony’s track record of supporting Playstation hardware besides the console itself is mediocre. One can look at the success or lack thereof of Move, Playstation 3d and Playstation Vita.
If sales of Playstation VR slow dramatically after launch it’s easy to see Sony withdrawing its support for the device over time. It is possible that with Sony’s departure, other third-party VR firms will follow swiftly. This could potential pose a real challenge to the longevity of VR.