Virtually unreal: Why I’m hesitant about PlayStation VR

Virtual reality is finally starting to become a reality. It’s been a dream since gaming began to step into these worlds for ourselves and get our hands dirty slaying some Octoroks, or shooting some aliens. A distant one until Oculus came onto the scene, followed by many competitors like the Vive.

However, the price point and computers needed for these devices mean that for all but the most hardcore hobbyists and developers, VR is still a little ways away from being viable. Enter Sony and the PlayStation VR, our focus for today.

The PlayStation VR is riding the wave of the future by working with a far more consumer friendly price point, easily obtained hardware and the full backing of Sony. There are a few asterisks behind the deal, such as needing a PlayStation Camera that could largely be ignored before now, and those old Move controllers you forgot about, but overall there is far less of an investment to get on Sony’s bus.

In one of the many interviews he’s done about the device, Shuhei Yoshida remarked that Sony is treating PlayStation VR like a console launch, rather than a peripheral launch, promising a wide variety of software, and that this is here to stay. Promises which to me, smack a little of Déjà vu.

It was the same like, almost exact same wording, back in 2010. Sony was gearing up to launch those Move controllers you didn’t have before PSVR said you would need them, and that “We’re treating this like a new platform” line came up then, too.

The PlayStation Move would quietly be taken out back and shot with maybe 150 different titles worldwide. Only 40 of which required the thing and far fewer using it for more than mini games or really wanting to be a Wii series title.

Even more damning, who remembers the PlayStation Vita? An actual new platform launch from Sony, with all the promises that come with that. Over 30 titles at launch, over 100 in development. Vita means Life, lauded the suits!

Or it did, until sales stalled and Sony allowed the “life changing handheld” to flop around in a ditch, held up by independent developer support a devoted user base. I’m personally a part of this vocal minority, which makes it all the more heartbreaking that Sony just gave up on what was a very promising device when things became just a little bumpy.

Fool me once, and so on. The Vita had its problems that contributed to what it’s become, but the biggest part of the tower collapsing was when Sony took a jackhammer to the foundation. Things were a little wobbly, so the whole thing was trashed to go focus on something else. A decision that from the consumer perspective, I’m never going to quite let go.

The Nintendo 3DS didn’t do so hot for a while itself. Much like the PlayStation Vita it enjoyed a strong start but quickly tapered off when it couldn’t capture the attention of a larger audience without some big franchises and a high entry fee.

The difference was clear in the response, Nintendo quickly took action, slashing the price while offering consolation prizes to the early adopters, and apologized profusely while making sure they got some compelling games out post-haste. While it didn’t turn the Wii U around quite like the 3DS, it did make the handheld into a success, even if not on the level the DS enjoyed in a pre-smartphone world.

When it comes back to the PlayStation VR, Sony isn’t going to fool me twice. While eventually, I do end up liking most of what they do, I simply can no longer close my eyes and trust that the PlayStation VR will be all they say. Ball is in Sony’s court now, and I’m happy to be proven wrong. I want PlayStation to make virtual reality, well, a reality for the mass market. Loaded with new experiences and marking a step forward for games. Prove to me that you won’t bail on this one, like you’ve done so many times before. I say to you, Sony…

showmeVR

Show me what you got.

2 Comments

  1. I though you did make a convincing argument but I have to disagree. The PlayStation vita did not take off as expected because the consumer pool for hand held gaming is more like a puddle. I personally believe the VR will take off simply because the fan base for virtual reality has be craving the technology for decades. For many gamers including myself this is a dream come true.

    • There are many reasons why the PS Vita flopped the way it did. The consumer pool being one of them, but not the only reason.

      If that were the only case, the 3DS would have flopped too. It’s hasn’t. it’s not enjoying DS numbers, but that’s unreasonable in the current landscape.

      Far be it from me to say don’t be excited for VR. This was more about Sony than VR as a concept.

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