PSVR’s Growing Pains May Finally Be At An End

by Jamie Feltham • March 23rd, 2017

Soft launches are when companies release a new product in a limited fashion, perhaps only in one part of the world. It allows them to prod at potential markets, gauging interest. It’s not a practice you’d expect to see utilized with something as big as the PlayStation brand, but Sony’s PlayStation VR (PSVR) seems to be an exception to the rule.

Sony says that PSVR’s success, nearing — if not by now surpassing — one million units sold, surprises even them. It’s apparently slightly ahead of its goal to hit seven-digit milestone by April.  But, in the grand scheme of PlayStation launches, a million is not a lot. Sony shifted that many PS4s in its first day on sale in the US and Canada alone, and PSVR launched to far more markets. Yet constant reports of struggles to find a unit from fans online suggest Sony wasn’t prepared to meet demand. Indeed, the device was apparently delayed in order to produce more units for launch.

ps-vr-ps4-move-headset

Then there’s the relative lack of advertising. PSVR never really infected TV screens and public transport posters in the same way that even Sony’s PS4 exclusive game Horizon: Zero Dawn did earlier this month, despite the headset arguably being a much more significant launch for the future of PlayStation, with no doubt a bigger overall budget behind it. We’ve also seen a reduced number of releases since launch in October. It’s been a candid release window for the headset to say the least, executed fully in the knowledge of the difficulties of selling VR to the masses.

But all of that could be ending soon.

PSVR’s line-up is growing noticeably bulkier in the next few weeks with some intriguing titles. Next week we have RTS curiosity, Korix, as well as the anticipated launch of the PSVR version of Fated: The Silent Oath. Heading into April, we have some long-promised games like Tarsier’s Statik, Jeff Minter’s Polybius, and Starblood Arena. Then in May we’ll finally have a big first-person shooter, Farpoint, to enjoy complete with a new controller that could put many of the headset’s quirks to rest.

All of that leads into an E3 in June that’s set to be big for VR gaming. If Sony’s show last year is any indication (Farpoint had one of the largest and most prominent billboard placements in LA that week atop the convention center) then its press conference will have some big new titles to look forward to. Plus it might have to compete with Microsoft’s Project Scorpio, which is an early front runner for this year’s biggest headline, and will be bringing mixed reality content to Xbox in 2018.

We’ve heard from one source close to the project that, around June time, Sony is planning to up its production on PSVR, which in turn suggests that the product’s performance thus far has given the company the confidence to greenlight a bigger push. We’ve reached out to the company for confirmation, but they didn’t reply by the time of publication. It’s speculation on our part, but the timing ties in nicely with the E3 window where the company, re-energized by sales data, could in turn bring the headset back into the spotlight in a big way.

We’re certainly hoping that’s the case. Despite being technically inferior to Vive and Rift, we’re huge fans of PSVR as a headset and ecosystem and, frankly, it’s responsible for how a lot of people perceive VR as a whole. We’ve seen that in these past few months as gaming and tech publications — including our own — have called into question just how committed Sony is to its new product.

Promising titles like Golem are still to come.

Promising titles like Golem are still to come.

The success of PSVR is in everyone’s best interests, as it legitimizes the work higher-end companies are doing in hopes of one day reaching the mainstream. But we really don’t know much about what else Sony has planned for the year in terms of releases.  Many of the games we put on our 50 Days of VR countdown list leading up to launch last year are now out, with notable exceptions like The Persistence, Golem, Megaton Rainfall, and Gran Turismo Sport still inbound. Beyond that, there’s still a lot to learn, which is why this year’s E3 excites us so much.

For those of you delighted by the PSVR hardware but frustrated by the lack of decent software, the next few months may be a sign that bigger and better things are on the way.

In the meantime, make sure you check out list for the best PSVR games to make sure you haven’t missed out on any.

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  • Chad Gates

    terrible headset with bad resolution and tracking issues

    • Nate

      The only time the resolution is really bad for me is at dark loading screens. The screen-door effect is very noticeable in those circumstances. However, during gameplay, the resolution is sufficiently adequate, while not being overwhelming. The tracking certainly isn’t ideal; it would be great for Sony to release something similar to the touch controls eventually and also sell additional sensors that can be installed in one’s play area.

      All-in-all though, for a $400 headset, and on a closed platform which tens of millions of people have potential easy access too, it’s a great deal and an amazingly fun time.

      Not everyone has the money to purchase a minimum $1,000 computer and then an $800 headset on top of that. Keep that in mind before continuing to defecate on the platform.

      • Jon Richter

        Honestly, this is just the current state of VR. Even the Vive has
        resolution to be desired (though supersampling in advanced settings
        helps a lot). In my opinion, most experiences are immersive enough that
        you don’t notice the resolution after a minute. Outside of higher
        resolution headsets, eye-tracking will likely be the answer.
        Essentially, what you are looking at is rez’d way up, while everything
        outside your gaze can be lower quality.

  • Brandon Smith

    The AIM Controller is going to “could put many of the headset’s quirks to rest.”?

    I’m curious to know what you think the headset’s “quirks” are, and what you think the AIM controller is going to do to fix them? I’m not trying to be snarky, as that probably sounds, I’m legitimately asking.

    • Jamie Feltham

      No problem at all 🙂

      For me, I’ve found standard with the Aim controller to be a far more comfortable and immersive experience than standing with with DualShock 4 or Move controllers! Turning with the assistance of the controller is much more comfortable and I can use sticks for locomotion unlike on Move which has none.

      • Nate

        I hope they decide to release Move controllers with analog sticks for movement at some point.

        • Rothgarr

          I wondered why they hadn’t done that with the release of PSVR. Maybe they had too many standard Move controllers in warehouses that they needed to get rid of. Even if they came up with some sort of snap-on attachment for the Move controllers that added an analog stick to the controller (and plugged into the usb on the bottom of the controller).

    • MaeseDude

      The biggest quirk is the substandard tracking by the camera, but that won’t be fixed by the aim controller. I hope Sony will at some point release a replacement; they ARE working on a better tracking mechanism that works similar to Vive’s. That would be an upgrade I would gladly buy.

  • Spider From Mars

    I hadn’t played computer games since the 1990s before purchasing the PSVR. I first heard about it in a Guardian article about the best new tech gadgets of 2016 and it felt like the future had arrived and I needed to be part of it. I’m still blown away by the technology each time I use it and it’s really exciting to speculate about where it’s going in both the short-term and long-term future.

  • Lucidfer

    With Sony’s expertise and oiled-up manufacturing management, they could very well update the PSVR at the end of the year, because as such this very promising device with way too low and cheap components and configurations is not going to hold-up.

    The reason why the PSVR met success as predicted compared to it’s PC counterparts, beside the fact that the PS4 is now 50 millions+ installed standard user-base compared to the ~20 millions high-end GPU owners (non-necessarily gamers), is because a relatively limited, experience/gaming oriented VR headset, work way better in the friendly/family, big-screen, couch living-room context that a small, single chair, desktop one.

    • Rothgarr

      I think if they released an updated headset this year it would alienate the MANY people who bought the current version (myself included). Yearly updates are normal for some products, but it would be too soon for PSVR. Sony’s selling points are simplicity of set-up, along with cheaper barrier to entry. I think Sony only need to have a price drop this year to sell a bunch more along with making sure there’s a steady stream of great software available.

      • Lucidfer

        I’m not sure about alienating, like smartphones people don’t have to upgrade as long as their model is usable, unless they want to sell or upgrade it. Do you feel it would alienate you for Sony to release a better version, garanteeing more entries to the platform and more content as a consequence, leaving you the choice to upgrade or not?

        • Rothgarr

          I think it would be a mistake in the console ecosystem. I believe people expect their consoles and peripherals to be supported for a lot longer than, say, the PC world. And I think it would cause unnecessary fragmentation — would new software only work on a newer PSVR headset? Will it work with the original PSVR? Does it require a PS4 Pro? Can you use the original PS4? Will it work with each combination? And even if they did come out with a newer headset with better specs who’s to say the current PS4 or PS4 Pro even has the horsepower to drive it? My opinion is that the best time to introduce a new headset is alongside the PS5, hopefully within the next two years. I imagine it would have the power to do wireless VR and at a much higher resolution than the current offering. In the meantime, make sure the flow of good VR games keeps coming and drop the price a few times until then.

      • MaeseDude

        They could provide updates in steps, though. For example, replace the camera with a better tracking system, which would make the headset (and especially the Move controllers) more steady in the game, and less prone to lose tracking when moving too far to the side etc. It doesn’t have to start with the headset itself.