What’s it like to play PSVR after months of experiencing Virtual Reality through the lenses of the HTC-Vive and Oculus Rift? Well, its pretty incredible actually.
I’ve been wholly impressed with the Playstation’s Virtual Reality headset, and it doesn’t seem like I’m alone. While calling it a “critical darling” might be a bit much, the PSVR is undeniably a surprise critical success. Look up reviews on Metacritic and you’ll find most of them sitting solidly in the 80’s, with the standard line being that the headset is amazing for its cost, and doubly amazing when you consider that it is running on a Playstation 4.
After trying PSVR for myself, I have to say I agree. For its price and convenience, sony’s headset truly is the most exciting one on the market, even if it doesn’t provide the ultimate VR experience. Whereas the HTC-Vive and even the Oculus Rift have been targeted directly at the high-end PC crowd, PSVR has been targeted at the average consumer, or to put it in more specific terms, PSVR has been targeted at the owners of the nearly 50 million (as of Sony’s latest Earning’s Briefing on November 1st) PS4 units currently out in the wild. With that many consoles already plugged into televisions all over the world, a mere 5% adoption rate of PSVR by PS4 owners would mean roughly 2.5 million in sales, just shy of the 2,602,370 units famed market research firm Superdata is anticipating.
That’s right — 2,602,370 units sold by the end of 2016. According to Superdata, the runner up in the tethered VR space is going to be the HTC-Vive with a mere 420,108 units (nearly 1/6th of PSVR sales), and in 3rd place will be Oculus Rift with 355,088 units sold.
PSVR is definitely the frontrunner early on, and while there are a number of factors contributing to this (price and convenience being chief among them), there are two other factors that are helping PSVR do things like sell 50,000 units in its first 4 days in Japan or have the fastest preorder sellout in Gamestop’s history.
(1) Quality VR deemphasizes the need for top-notch graphics: For years the graphical arms race has been deadening the souls of developers and gamers alike. Don’t misunderstand, gorgeous visuals are fantastic, but the amount of time and money that has gone into improving graphical fidelity in spite of diminishing returns over the years has become tiresome in the industry. PSVR is proving that you don’t need the most high-end graphics to have a great time in VR. I’ve talked with a number of developers about this and the general consensus is that, when you’re in VR, you’re in that world. Whatever that world looks like is what it looks like. It doesn’t detract from the experience to have simpler textures because the headtracking makes it feel so real, even in spite of any previous expectations of what that world should look like. So, when you’re playing Eve: Valkyrie and the textures on your giant spaceship machine guns aren’t quite as shiny in a PSVR as they are in an Oculus Rift, you don’t care as much… because you’re flying through space shooting giant machine guns!
Also, to address the dreaded screen door effect, I barely noticed it on the PSVR, even in low-light environments where I typically notice screen door effect the most, it was barely an issue (nor were “god rays” for that matter).
(2) Sony has done a great job curating content and they’ve got a ton of franchises to mine for Virtual Reality: Sony’s early releases for PSVR have been consistently great. There haven’t been any totally life-altering demos like Valve’s The Lab for HTC-Vive, but there is also nowhere near the amount of junk that exists on Steam either. Sony has done a wonderful job organizing a diverse array of early titles, many of which utilize color and light intensive visuals to mask any low quality textures and make for some thrilling (and pretty trippy) VR rides.
Many of PSVR’s launch titles have a vibe to them that is all there own. They may not be as indie crazy as a lot of what is on offer on platforms like steam, but many Sony PSVR games feel like hyper-polished experiments. They feel different compared to standard console games and they feel different compared to what is on offer on the Steam VR and the Oculus Store. Ultimately, I think the biggest difference is that while a lot of what I’ve experienced with the other headsets are definitely amazing experiences, a lot of what I’m seeing for PSVR is great games, with actual gamey mechanics, which is exciting.
Besides an excellent launch lineup, PSVR also has a number of franchises whose devoted followers number in the millions. While HTC-Vive has brought back characters from their famed Portal series and Oculus has worked to create new memorable characters (like Lucky from Lucky’s tale), Sony has the ability to give Laura Croft missions in Virtual Reality, make Batman’s cave explorable in first-person, or make turn a 20-year old franchise like Resident Evil into a fully playable 10+ hour VR experience. People want to have new experiences and play games in new ways, but they also want to be tethered to something familiar. PSVR offers that perfect balance at an unbeatable price. (Note: this isn’t a promise that these games will be good in VR, but it is a promise that it will drive sales for the PSVR).
Playstation VR has its limitations. Its resolution is 960 x 1080 per eye while both its competitors sit comfortably at 1080 x 1200 per eye. It runs on a playstation 4, a console that any half-way decent gaming PC could run circles around. But even with all that, PSVR is still a serious competitor, and not just because of its ease of use or its low barrier to entry (super low if you compare the cost of the average PC to the cost of a PS4). PSVR is a competitor because it is delivering quality VR experiences, many of which have their own unique, gamey, feel and many of which are tied to franchises that gamers around the world know and love. Sony has done it. They’ve delivered a $500 (bundle) VR System that is just good enough to be great.
**Written By Nathan Hoffmeier.