Sony have announced their new generation virtual reality headset, the PSVR 2, which will make use of the PS5 console’s increased processing power. Many had voiced concerns that Sony might step back from VR after the PSVR didn’t perform as well hoped. As a PSVR owner, myself, I very much enjoyed the PSVR experience. However, I do feel that the technology was held back by the processing power of the PS4. Even with the additional external processing unit, the PSVR produced blurry visuals due to the lower than optimum resolution it was restricted to. With the increased power of the PS5, Sony are now promising 4k visuals with 2000x 2040 pixels per eye, a significant increase on the PSVR’s 960×1080 per eye, which should result in much crisper visuals.
So, is this the real take off VR was waiting for? That remains to be seen. While the PSVR 2 does come with several improvements over its predecessor, including inside-out tracking, meaning an external camera will no longer be required, and a new PSVR 2 Sense controller which will reportedly amplify in-game sensations; VR is still an expensive hobby. Whichever platform you choose for VR, PC or console, it will almost certainly retain its high cost of entry, which seems to be the most limiting factor of VR. It requires you to invest first in either a PS5 or a high spec PC and then pay the further cost of a VR unit on top. While there has not yet been a release date or price for the PSVR 2 unit, with the PS5 console currently retailing for around the £500 mark and taking a rather conservative estimated cost of £400 for the PSVR 2 unit, even if the cost of PS5 consoles do go down before the 2023/24 estimated release date, you’re still looking at around £800/£900 entry cost.
The games available for consoles are also as important, if not more so, than consoles themselves and while many good games were released for the PSVR, only a few mainstream franchises made the leap with most the result of Sony paying towards the development costs. Most AAA titles for the PS4 did not have PSVR support and games made specifically for the console, overall, were shorter, less expansive experiences. The fact is that the development costs for VR is high, due to the unique requirements of the medium such as dual rendering, motion sickness considerations and the need to hit high refresh rates of 90hz. This increased cost along with the reduced player base, due to high costs of entry to the medium, and therefore reduced sales mean that as long as VR remains a high cost niche product most AAA titles will not cater to it as it just won’t prove financially viable.
Sony have announced that Horizon Call of the Mountains is in production for the PSVR 2 console and will be built specifically for PSVR 2, giving player the chance to delve deeper into the world of Horizon. Whether this will be a game of the length and scale of the other titles in franchise remains to be seen or if like Psychonaunts in the Rhombus of Ruin, it is more of a short experience offering a VR flavour of the main franchise. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Psychonaunts in the Rhombus of Ruin as a standalone experience, but it wasn’t the Psychonauts 2 that people were waiting for and can now enjoy, just not in VR.
So, what is my current opinion of the PSVR 2? I think it appears to be making some very welcome improvements to VR but that what ultimately will determine its success will be its entry cost and its uptake with developers. With the better visuals, made possible by the increased processing power at its disposal, it does have the potential for higher sales, but I can’t see these getting to the levels it would need make it a mainstream platform. The ideal world would be all PS5 titles having PSVR 2 compatibility which I’m sure Sony is striving for too. However, at this point it seems unlikely due to the extra development costs for developers, paired with a restricted player base when compared with the base console. I still feel that VR is a medium of the future and will become the norm in a few console generations time. I’m not convince that this generation is the moment but I hope and will no doubt give it a try when it releases.