Nobody gives a shit about VR.
OK, some people are giving a shit. People in the VR industry care, and people covering that industry, and maybe very enthusiastic gamers with a lot of time and money and dreams of a Lawnmower Man life.
But the rest of the world? They couldn't care less about VR. They suffered tennis in Nintendo’s weird-smelling VR set-up and they trucked their ass to arcades and Circuit City to try demos in the '90s and they’ve heard it all before and for the last few years they’ve had to listen to whispers of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and what these pricey devices could do with the addition of a grand or two in computer processing power.
They’re rightfully wary of the label. That’s why PlayStation VR is cool. It has the power to make people give a shit.
Starting at £349, 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 £500 Rift is really more like £1000+ 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 in the PS4 it can make a very simple plug-and-play solution. (Yes, presumably Sony could still fuck 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 geared at enthusiasts 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.
That’s why PlayStation VR is cool. It has the power to make people give a shit.
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’ll 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 with a 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. PSVR has the power to make people care.
Curmudgeonly suggestions courtesy of Mario Aguilar.