It’s been a whole six months since Sony thrust their consumer Virtual reality headset into stores and a lot has happened since that fateful day. When I first reviewed the Playstation VR I thought it was destined not to take over every area of gaming but to carve its own niche both in gaming and in the wider media. With the PSVR out for 6 months now though and a solid slate of new releases having made their way onto the system I thought I’d update my thoughts on the headset and look at what the future could hold.
Games & ‘Experiences’
Sony’s headset has seen a solid stream of content in its first 6 months and while the volume may have disappointed some I think there was a reasonable offering for a tech still very much in its infancy. I can’t talk about games without mentioning Resident Evil 7 for me it epitomises what VR gaming is like at the highest level. The excellent work by Capcom on VR integration provides an experience unlike anything you could get on a flat screen. VR takes the already excellent flat experience and turns up the horror to 11 with its sense of presence added an intensity you couldn’t get anywhere else. Dirt Rally also proved that the best way to make a great VR game is to simply convert a great non-VR game. Flying (sometimes literally) through the mountains of Monte Carlo or up the hill climb at Pike’s Peak is exhilarating in VR and codemasters has done such an excellent conversion job that quite frankly I don’t want to play a flat racer again. AAA games like these are something the platform seems to lack going forward though with VR tending to be limited to a side mission or two which, having played Dirt and RE7, is infuriating. The smaller games are what filling the gap for me though. They’re doing things that wouldn’t be possible or interesting outside of VR with I Expect You to Die and Apollo 11 VR being my personal highlights. Experiences on the other hand are a mixed bunch with most being too expensive to justify a purchase. There are a few diamonds in the rough though and the Joshua Bell VR experience provides a glimpse into what could be the future of VR video allowing you to lean in and move around the room something that was never possible with previous 360 degree films.
Sony has, over these last 6 months, looked to expand the headsets non gaming capacity with an update to improve cinema mode resolution alongside adding support for 3D bluray playback for the device. Both were widely requested by the community and are signs that Sony is listening to consumers and doing its best to keep up with their requests. There’s still work to be done on this front though as while Sony introduced the functionality to playback 4K 360 files on the device there is still no official functionality for 3D 360 support, something that has baffled users since launch. Littlstar has provided unofficial support however it would be much easier for casual users to be able to use the media player built into the device. In addition to this the blackout issues reported by users are still yet to be addressed making it clear that Sony still has a way to go before it perfects its headset. However its not all terrible news for 360 lovers as Youtube VR support has arrived bringing with it one of, if not the, largest libraries of 360 videos available. Perhaps the biggest thing that has happened at Sony though is the closure of Guerrilla Cambridge, the studio behind RIGS, marking the end of all future DLC plans the developers had and sending out what has to be considered a bad message.
Sales & the Future
Sony is insistent PSVR has a bright future with comments from CEO Kaz Hirai indicating that the success of PSVR could lift all of Sony’s divisions. It has the numbers to back it up too with 915,000 PSVR sold through to consumers since launch which they claim is ahead of projections (hardly suprising given the early stock shortages). A lot depends on PSVR’s sales momentum going forward however. The question is whetehr it has dried up the niche of people currently interested in a £350 VR and, ultimately, whether the headset has mass market appeal. To gain mass market appeal PSVR is going to need big name games and the best place to reveal those is at E3 in just a few short months.
Its been a solid start for Sony’s headset then with PSVR having already outsold its current competitors the Vive and Rift and established itself as a solid VR headset. The future though could hold anything and with Sony’s track record (Vita, PS move) I wouldn’t call PSVR a success yet.