The Playstation VR has only just launched and it’s fair to say that it’s going quite well so far. Reviews of the hardware are largely positive, it’s easily the most financially viable option when it comes to VR for most of us and it’s got a good selection of launch titles behind it.
So what’s the problem?
Well, the main concern that I’ve heard a lot of people voice is that Sony have a pretty poor track record of supporting their peripherals and anything that isn’t the Playstation itself. Which is kind of hard to argue against - these people do have a point.
Take a look at the Vita. It was launched with promise of ‘console gaming on a handheld’ and was subsequently poorly looked after. Few first party titles, few mentions of the device at E3 conferences and just a general apathy to the device lead it to having something of a niche following rather than mainstream success.
Those Move controllers that you can now use with the PSVR? They were realistically nothing more than a gimmick, nothing more than the PS4’s version of the EyeToy. No game made ‘good’ use of the move controllers, few games required and everyone very quickly forgot about them entirely.
What I’d like to make clear though is that those ‘failed peripherals’ and attempts at trying something new were all ‘me too’ attempts. The Vita wanted to grab some of Nintendo’s DS and 3DS related success and never recovered from the monumental shifts in handheld gaming that tablets and improved smartphones caused. The Move controllers were nothing more than an attempt to jump on the Wii and Kinect bandwagon whilst things like the EyeToy and SixAxis controller were never meant to be nothing more than a toy or a cheap gimmick which was quickly abandoned respectively.
So why will the PSVR be a change in approach for Sony?
The fact is, with the PSVR, Sony are not simply aping what someone else has already done. The PSVR is the first console-specific Virtual Reality headset and is also the first VR proposition that isn’t aimed at hardcore tech enthusiasts.
This had to have been a big decision for Sony, with huge development costs being sunk into this device, so the idea that they’d let it down by not supporting it properly is not really conceivable.
It’s also important to see that Sony have changed their view on hardware in general. In fact, everyone has. We’re now entering a moment in console hardware where the idea of a continuous cycle, with new iterations of machines being released annually, isn’t that alien of a concept. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sony push out a new version of the PSVR within a couple of years too, what with the advancements in the technology being as rapid as they are. The odds are more likely that you’ll see a new model long before you’d see Sony give up on this new venture.
Of course, it’s not just supporting the hardware that will signal Sony’s intentions - there needs to be the software to back it up too. So far, all signs point to the PSVR being healthy in this regard.
Sony have had plenty of their first-party developers push something out for VR, even if it’s only a small demo of a game. They’ve shown commitment financially to securing software exclusivity as well with Resident Evil 7 and Batman: Arkham VR being signed up as timed exclusives.
Even aside from this, Sony has fostered a great relationship with the independent developer community, which is a part of the game development scene that has really taken VR to heart and is producing some of the more interesting software out there.
With PSVR launching as well as it did, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see indie devs use PSVR as the base on which to build their VR future. Ultimately, the Vive and Oculus have the superior technology within them, but if they don’t account for the majority of the paying VR consumer-base, they’ll be supported platforms rather than a targeted platform.
So whilst it’s early days for the PSVR, it’s safe to say that Sony intends for it to be around for the long haul. Whilst I won’t guarantee it’ll change the world forever and I can’t speak to the quality of the games you’ll see on it, I can safely say that Sony won’t let this thing fail through lack of support.