Is the PlayStation VR2 Really the Next 'Generational Leap Forward'?
Tech-wise, probably, but factor in market and price and this feels like a product that has outkicked its coverage.
If you’ve paid attention to gaming this week, chances are you’ve seen the PS VR2, the latest virtual reality headset slated to come to market early next year.
Sometime recently, Sony invited a large group of reviewers from some of the biggest tech and gaming websites out to its San Francisco HQ to take in all that the new hardware has to offer. The reception? Those critics were dazzled—with early reviews calling it the next big step in virtual reality, seemingly backing PlayStation’s own marketing tagline of a “generational leap forward.”
Based off the reviews and the specs, the headset seems incredible compared to its competitors. It carries the most pixels per eye in the market, more than the Meta Quest 2, Valve Index or HTC Vive Pro. It brings in new haptic feedback on the hand controllers, similar to the innovations in the PlayStation 5 controller. And it features new eye-tracking technology, reducing render priority on objects out of a player’s field of view to enhance ones in it.
But is it really the next big step forward in VR? Well that depends…
It’s not unfair to say that VR is still very much a niche market.
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Despite some companies like Meta—which is revealing its own new headset in October—and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, selling VR as the next big horizon, we’ve not even come close to our “Ready Player One” moment.
VR still presents the problem of motion sickness for a large portion of consumers. The price tags for many of these headsets are way too high. And at present, VR is still a gaming device, even if it attempts to differentiate itself from that market.
With Zuckerberg’s quest to dominate the market, and despite a recent Quest 2 price hike, the Oculus acquirer has spent a load of money on advertising. It ran a 60-second ad during Super Bowl LVI in February, estimated to be the most expensive piece of advertising for VR ever, according to Road to VR.
Chances are, if you’ve watched television anytime recently, you’ve encountered a lot of ads for “Supernatural,” the VR fitness app that Meta is attempting to acquire but is held up in court proceedings with the FTC for being anticompetitive. The main ad, initially released in November 2021, speaks to Meta’s quest to separate itself from the gamer audience.
But despite those best efforts, Meta sold fewer than 1 million units for the Quest 2 in Q2 2022, according to AR Insider estimates. That may seem like a lot, but not really. Not when compared to the PlayStation 5, which sold 2.4 million units in the same period, per PlayStation Lifestyle. Or the Xbox Series X & S, which have sold around 3 million units, according to VGChartz estimates. The Quest will spike this holiday season—but it will still remain niche, even compared to tough-to-get consoles.
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So where does that land the PS VR2?
The answer is somewhere not really great.
The biggest thing holding back the PS VR2 will be its need to be connected to the PlayStation 5 itself. Even some 22 months after its release, it’s extremely hard to find a PlayStation 5 at retail online. It’s gotten easier, sure, and it’s likely that PlayStation manufacturing has geared up for the holiday surge, too. But it’s a $500 console and very inaccessible to the mainstream consumer.
The PS VR2’s price point isn’t announced, and it’s not coming until 2023. It doesn’t work with a PS4 (understandable, from a technology perspective, given how much more powerful a PS5 is.) So to get in, that will require both a PlayStation 5 and a PS VR2 purchase. If the headset is $500, which seems plausible, that’s $1,000, all-in, for the setup.
What has set the Quest 2 apart—even though it still lags behind other gaming hardware—is that it requires no additional connection. It’s optional to use a PC. Yes, it enhances the experience significantly, but for families looking to buy their children something without breaking the bank.
So the PS VR2 might be the “generational leap forward” tech-wise, but with a small market and a high cost, it’s probably just another (pretty cool) niche piece of hardware.