Today is the first official day of GDC week. While the UploadVR team spent all of yesterday at the Oculus Game Showcase preview event playing tons of Oculus Rift games, this week is about much more than just the upcoming launch of the Facebook-owned headset. GDC 2016 is about virtual reality as a medium making its big debut to the masses and, more specifically, it’s about the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and tons of other emerging technologies.
And yet, here we are a day away from Sony’s press conference on Tuesday afternoon, and we have no idea what they’re going to talk about.
Obviously, one of the biggest questions on people’s minds is what’s going on with the PlayStation VR? CES came and went without so much as a peep, so the ball is fully in Sony’s court now. We know the price and launch of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but we still don’t know a whole lot about the PSVR. GDC 2016 is the moment that PSVR can shift the conversation away from mobile VR like the Gear and away from desktop VR like the Rift and Vive, and put the spotlight on VR for home consoles.
The PSVR has a major advantage in this regard. Consumers don’t need to spend $1,000+ just to have a PC that can take full advantage of the headset. All you need is a PlayStation 4 and, ideally, depending on what types of bundles are available — that’s it. Luckily for Sony, almost 40 million people already have a PlayStation 4, which is almost 40 million potential early adopters of VR that don’t need to invest in upgrading or buying a new machine.
The PS4 already has a motion-based control setup with the PlayStation Move and the steady and stable hardware specs provided by a home console’s uniformity across the world means performance shouldn’t be an issue for the device. Now, all that’s left, is the price, release date, and launch lineup of software.
Why We Need the Details
Sony always seems to find itself in advantageous situations as of late. When Microsoft announced the Xbox One launch price of $499, Sony immediately countered it with a price of $399 instead. Since history has a habit of repeating itself, we’re now just hours away from another Sony event where their chief competitors, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, have already laid most of if not all of their cards on the table. It’s Sony’s move.
At GDC, they have the perfect opportunity to announce an attractive price (ideally a PSVR-only setup that will come in under the cost of an Oculus Rift and a PSVR + PS4 bundle that will come in under the cost of the HTC Vive) and establish a release window. This would serve two huge functions: 1) It would position them as the most affordable “real” VR device on the market – as in fully functional high-end technology and 2) It would prove to consumers that top-notch VR can be affordable.
That second point is crucial. While 15% interest is a big number for a new piece of technology, VR has so much overlap with the game industry it could be much higher. If PSVR is affordable and makes a compelling case for console VR gaming, that changes everything.
That way, by the time E3 rolls around, everyone will already know the price range and launch window so the focus can be on the software. Good, quality content is the most important thing for any piece of hardware and that’s what people care the most about at E3. GDC is great to get the tech details out of the way so when E3 rolls around, it can be all about the games. That’s what consumers want to see and the road map is perfectly in place.
Swinging the Adoption Rate
PSVR is in a position to truly impact the future of VR in the game industry. Oculus Rift, as recognizable as it is today, is still a company that has yet to truly release the product that it was founded on. We’re mere weeks away, but the Rift is still unreleased nevertheless. The HTC Vive is still unknown to many people, despite how impressive it can be, and it requires extensive work and space to even get functioning in your home.
For Sony, they’re already a proven and tested manufacturer of not only hardware (the PS4 is the best-selling game console this generation at the moment) but software as well. They know their audience and they know how to create and sell great games and devices in the gaming space.
Having a company like Sony putting their faith, investment, and energy into VR is encouraging. A lot of everyday consumers wouldn’t be willing to gamble $1,500 on a new medium of entertainment, but plenty would spend a few hundred bucks on just a peripheral for something they already own. Holiday 2016 will likely be dominated by the PSVR.
But in order for that encouragement to last and for the adoption rate of VR to really start swinging upwards in the near term, they’ve got to return the support with information and details. GDC is the opportunity to do that.