Playstation VR 2: "It really is all down to Sony"
The Playstation VR 2 is in the starting blocks. How will Sony's VR headset do? The industry is divided.
February 22, 2023 is the day: After almost six and a half years, the successor to Playstation VR will be released.
The British video game magazine Edge has made Sony's new VR headset its cover topic and conducted interviews with developers who are preparing games for the device in the run-up to the market launch.
The article, which also features a market analyst and XR veteran, gives a good picture of the current emotional state: from anticipation and excitement to cautious optimism and doubts that Playstation VR 2 will have the desired effect on the VR industry.
Keeping the risk low
Virtual reality in general, and Playstation VR 2 in particular, gives developers new tools with which to shape worlds and tell stories. Jörg Tittel, the co-founder of studio Oiffy, which has two games in development for PSVR 2, is excited about the technology's potential, but admits that more needs to be invested in software rather than the "metaverse."
A recurring theme in the article is the manageability of the VR market, which forces studios to release games for as many platforms as possible. This is one of the reasons why exclusive titles are underrepresented in the list of PSVR 2 games announced so far, and the vast majority of titles are ports of existing VR games.
One exception is Switchback VR, the spiritual successor to the roller coaster shooter Until Dawn: Rush of Blood for the first Playstation VR, which was also an exclusive and launch title.
The studio responsible, Supermassive Games, was acquired by Danish film company Nordisk Film last summer and can afford to take a risk and only develop for one platform. "[VR] is a smaller market, so we scale down our expectations in that sense," says Will Doyle from Supermassive Games in regards to the sales figures.
The VR landscape is very different from 2016
What the studios don't discuss is that Sony will likely partially or fully fund most of the PSVR 2 exclusive titles. Meta Quest 2 is currently the most successful VR headset, and Sony will have to work hard to even come close to catching up with its competitor.
If Playstation VR 2 fails to attract a critical mass of players, VR studios could spend the next few years developing for the lowest common denominator, Meta Quest, with potentially fatal consequences for Sony's VR system.
Since Playstation VR 2 is not backwards compatible, Sony is almost starting from scratch again in terms of the VR ecosystem. The good news is that many studios are trying to port their old PSVR1 titles to the new VR system and offer them as a free upgrade. Whether that will convince buyers of the older VR headset and those who are only now flirting with getting into VR to buy Playstation VR 2 is another question.
It's all about the games
What Playstation VR 2 needs, and everyone agrees on this, is top-notch software. Horizon Call of the Mountain is currently the only announced first-party title.
That's too little, says market researcher George Jijiashvili. His "optimistic forecast" is that Sony will sell 1.6 million systems this year and ten million devices by 2027. This is only under the condition that Sony can deliver games that boost sales in the first year.
"I mean, if they don’t, then they’re kind of screwed. These existing announcements, these dozen or so games, will not carry a $550 peripheral for a console," Jijiashvili says. "It really is all down to Sony. They need to show their own firstparty commitment to this device. And I think, once they do that, others will follow."
Author, game designer and XR veteran Tadhg Kelly is pessimistic about the situation. The reason: no major studios or publishers would support Playstation VR 2. He's heard from many studios that have developed games for PSVR1 that it's not worth it. Replay rates and sales weren't great - despite millions of headsets sold.
Sony still has some time to convince with software: The company could announce more titles at the CES press conference. The upcoming Christmas business will probably be decisive for the console's further fate. Hopefully, Sony will have one or two hits ready for it.