Sony finally launched the PlayStation VR, which rounds out the three big releases of The Year of VR with the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Sony’s kit is the most affordable of the three, and the company has an install base of over 40 million VR-ready consoles worldwide. That number is both a massive opportunity for Sony to dominate the VR market, and a massive responsibility to do it well. The PSVR holds the key to the early success of this new medium because it holds the key to millions of gamers' hearts worldwide.
The launch of the PSVR is a major milestone for Sony, but it's also poised to be either a massive blow or a major boon to the VR industry as a whole. Everyone involved in VR right now is relying on people sharing virtual reality with others. You simply can’t understand what VR is like until you’ve tried it, which is a major hurdle preventing mass adoption. In a way, the PSVR is a linchpin for the industry. If the PSVR fails to impress and turns off a large chunk of the potential VR market, other platforms will have a much harder time succeeding. On the other hand, if Sony knocks people’s socks off, they could be more likely to consider a higher end option in the future.
Valve and HTC came out swinging with an incredible Vive package, which set the bar high for high-end VR experiences. Oculus is an equal in terms of hardware design and material quality and is second to none in dollars invested to ensure that research and development in VR continues. HTC and Oculus can only dream of having the reach that Sony has during the incubation stages of this burgeoning industry, though. Given Sony’s history of launching consoles, the company could conceivably sell hundreds of thousands, if not millions of PSVR units before the end of the year.
So far, Sony appears to have hit it out of the park. We’re not ready to release our full review at this time, but our initial experience showed great promise. The PSVR is the most affordable “premium” VR experience that you can buy for home use, and it’s the only option available for the massive console gaming market. The hardware isn’t as robust as the Vive or the Rift, but it's nevertheless good enough to provide a great experience.
Sony nailed the details that count. The headset is comfortable to wear for long periods of time and doesn’t produce eye strain. The first time I put it on, I spent over 3 hours inside the HMD without even realizing it. The setup is also fairly straight forward; if you're capable of connecting your PS4 to your TV, you shouldn’t have any trouble setting up the PSVR. Best of all, you don’t have to walk through an elaborate setup process. Your PS4 will detect the PSVR HMD when you turn it on and automatically change the microphone input to the PSVR and enable the HMD's displays.
Sony also took steps to ensure that PSVR can be a social activity for you and your friends. There are games that offer asymmetric play, which allows one player to be in VR while others play on the TV, and when asymmetric play isn’t available, the TV is used to show everyone else what the VR player can see.
And we’re not the only people that are happy with the product Sony delivered. The PSVR subreddit is filled with accounts of how amazed people are with VR and the PSVR HMD. People are showing their friends and families, and they're genuinely excited about the hardware. And people with debilitating disabilities, such as one young man with cerebral palsy and an older gentleman who survived a stroke, are finding new joy from the PSVR experience.
We believe Sony did right by the VR industry with the PSVR. The hardware is affordable enough to be interesting to many, and good enough to be worth considering as high-end VR option.