So PlayStation VR2 is finally out.
Did you get one? Did you know it was out?
Do you care?
Expensive PC-based VR and phone-powered versions pedalling underwhelming kind-of VR meant PlayStation VR was a lot of people’s first taste of true virtual reality; 3D environments and full 6 degrees of freedom (meaning you could reach into the scene and physically walk around in it, rather than simply look around from a fixed position).
For a first attempt, the PS VR was a wonderful piece of kit — great performance, comfortable, a strong game line-up and released at a fair price. It was a genuine achievement for Sony. But it wasn’t perfect. Its multi-cable, external power box and camera set up was a mess. Convoluted for the tech-savvy and damn-near unfathomable for the casual user. It was a faff, basically. And people don’t like faff.
To those who persevered though, there was real magic there. Virtual reality can create experiences simply not possible elsewhere, and PS VR was home to a lot of them. It was proof that real virtual reality in your living room actually worked.
The PS VR2 builds on the first headset with some pretty huge upgrades; an OLED screen with HDR and nearly 4x the resolution, built-in cameras for headset and controller tracking, 110 degrees field of view, 3D audio, haptic feedback, and even eye tracking to maximise detail depending on which part of the screen you’re looking at. And best of all? No more faff! Just a single USB-C cable that connects directly into your PS5.
Most early reports agree that it’s hugely impressive, with Gran Turismo 7 in particular showing just what it’s capable of. It’s a bit of a beast, basically, and a genuine step forward for consumer VR tech. But (and I’m sure you saw this ‘but’ coming a mile off)…. it ain’t cheap. At £530 this is an expensive bit of kit. More than a PS5 in fact, which you’ll also need to power the thing.
It’s a bold move. After all you can get a Meta Quest 2 for £400 and it requires no PC or console at all to run. It’s an excellent headset — certainly better than PS VR1 — but its specs aren’t in the same league as PS VR2’s. Make no mistake, PS VR2 is high-end VR in every sense, but if you want the latest and greatest tech, you’re gonna have to pay for it.
I’m thrilled Sony is so committed to what is certainly still a niche market. But it’s a huge risk, and I worry about it. I still hear people say they’ve never tried VR and that they don’t see the appeal. And that’s always been VR’s biggest hurdle — It’s simply impossible to comprehend the sense of scale and presence you can get without trying on a headset yourself. And now the barrier to entry has been pushed even higher.
Sony could have offered a cheap, more refined PS VR1 and tried to get it into the hands of as many people as possible. Instead they’ve gone the other way; opting for an expensive, high-end headset full of cutting edge tech to really try and push the format forward.
It’s a move I applaud. I just hope the high price combined with the very real cost of living crisis doesn’t hold back one of the few truly daring and exciting endeavours in gaming. A medium you could argue is becoming a little too safe and predictable of late.