Sixteen days ago we exited what many people were calling the “year of virtual reality.” 2016 was considered to be the year that VR finally made the transition from science fiction fantasy to a real consumer product available at your local Best Buy. Last year, the Oculus Rift (Facebook), HTC Vive (HTC and Valve) and the PlayStation VR (Sony) all debuted, and Samsung just announced 5 million of its Gear VR headsets have shipped. The PS VR in particular was anticipated as the guaranteed success of the tethered headsets. With a plug-and-play install base of around 50 million PS4s, and the monolithic might of Sony behind it, it was the best bet the VR industry had. And yet as 2017 begins, the question must be asked: is Sony already beginning to pull away from PS VR?
Now before you all start tying your move controllers into nunchucks with which to bludgeon me to death, let me explain myself. No one is saying that Sony is abandoning its newborn platform a couple months after launch. There are, however, some eyebrow-raising things to consider. Lets knock them out one at a time.
Just a few days ago it was announced by Sony that one of its first party studios, Guerrilla Cambridge, would be shut down. This was a tragedy for the talented employees of the studio that made the well- received Killzone: Mercenary for the PlayStation Vita (more on that little guy in a bit). But it was also a telling move considering that the last game Cambridge released was RIGS: Mechanized Combat League for PlayStation VR.
RIGS was one of PS VR’s most anticipated games and it even won our award for the best title on that platform for all of 2016. And yet, Sony decided to shutter Cambridge and focus on other studios.
There has not yet been a direct correlation made between Cambridge’s working on VR and its closure, but the stigma is more pronounced when you start looking at the other Sony platform it developed for.
Ghosts of The Vita
The PlayStation Vita is a portable gaming device that was released in 2011. It was positioned as a system that gamers could take on the go that would also pump out console-quality graphics and top-tier games. However, six years after the Vita hit shelves, the little-system-that-could has been all but eliminated from Sony’s top level marketing, and new games have been reduced to a trickle.
The PS VR’s great grandfather, PlayStation Move, also suffered a similar fate. It was an innovative product with a somewhat noticeable early marketing push that quickly faded until its parts were cannibalized back into the immersive system we have today.
Just because one or two fresh-faced devices have been ostracized by Sony over the years does not necessarily mean that PS VR is in for the same fate, but it does at least establish that Sony is willing to cut ties with a fledgling system if the value just isn’t there.
Sony is a company that can, and does, generate a lot of money on its PlayStation consoles. It has no reason to throw good money after bad because every dollar it spends propping up a struggling system could be put to much better use supporting the PS4 instead. Sony is not a charity, which is why this final point is probably the most important when answering our initial question.
How is It Selling?
There has not yet been an official word from Sony as to how many PS VR units it has sold. We don’t know if this thing has moved 500 thousand or 5 million units since launching in October.
There’s a saying that no news is good news but when it comes to companies like Sony the opposite can be true. If the PS VR was flying off the shelves Sony would, theoretically, be much more inclined to share exact sales numbers. It does not, however, have a direct competitor (yet) for the console VR space so its silence could be more strategic than prophetic at this point.
It is also worth noting that PS VR does have some AAA quality experiences on the way this year including the hotly anticipated Resident Evil VII (which is fully playable in VR).
What do you think?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Is PS VR already heading the way of the Vita, or is it simply too early to say without clearer sales numbers? You may now feel free to get out your nunchucks.