Playstation VR 2: Sony faces stiff market factors
Playstation VR 2 is pricier than expected and will be a niche product if Sony does not invest in the platform in the long run.
The cat is out of the bag. Playstation VR 2 will be released in February 2023 and will cost $550. Without VR games, of course. Those who want to buy the system in a bundle with Sony's big PSVR2 flagship title Horizon Call of the Mountain will have to pay extra.
The PS5 accessories thus cost more than the PS5 itself, which costs at least another $500. Thus, the entry price for console-based high-end VR is over $1,000.
Playstation VR 2: A bargain - or not
As a long-time VR enthusiast, I'm going to buy a PS5 and PSVR2. No question about it!
After almost three years of Meta Quest, I'm craving bigger, prettier, higher-quality VR games. Since PC VR is more-or-less dead and I therefore see no reason to buy a new computer, Playstation VR 2 comes just in time.
The system also offers a lot of great VR tech that I can't find in any other headset in this price range. From that perspective, the PSVR 2 is almost a bargain.
But that's not the point. The crucial question is what the people who aren't waiting for VR think. Because Sony has to convince them to buy it so that the platform has a chance and virtual reality grows. The reactions of this target group are likely to be quite different, and it is their demand that ultimately determines whether Playstation VR is "expensive" or not.
The big brands are missing
In September, I cited several reasons why PSVR2 could cost a great deal. My estimate was even exceeded! Now, there are attempts within the VR bubble to put the high price into perspective by pointing to high-quality technology or inflation. However, I'm afraid that such refinements are of little interest to the standard consumer.
$550? That sounds like a lot of money and will scare off many potential buyers. Especially in the current economic climate. Even if Sony had a number of well-known titles in stock at this price, the Playstation VR 2 would be a "tough sell". But it isn't.
Horizon Call of the Mountain is the only VR-exclusive launch title with any appeal, and it remains to be seen how much gameplay depth it offers. Among the PSVR2 games announced so far and the 11 titles revealed yesterday, there isn't a single other VR game being developed by one of the major first-party studios. Half-Life: Alyx is also missing so far.
Does Sony have another surprise in store between now and the February 2023 launch? I wouldn't bet on it.
PSVR 2: Sony has to prove stamina
In the worst case, Playstation VR 2 could suffer the same fate as the first Playstation VR. At this price and software offer, it could become a niche accessory that not even ten percent of PS5 owners own.
To prevent history from repeating itself, Sony needs to support the platform long-term this time around. That means delivering excellent software over time that makes the purchase worthwhile for console gamers and shows studios that Sony is serious about building its own VR ecosystem.
Otherwise, Playstation VR 2 could degenerate into a platform for Quest ports. Many "enhanced" versions with slightly improved graphics have already been announced. I hope that Sony will have a strong game library by Christmas 2023, that it will shake one or two surprises out of its sleeve, and that it will lower the price or at least offer one or two big titles in a package.
If the potential buyer base doesn't grab it even then, the market's verdict is in. Playstation VR 2, unlike its predecessor, is a mature and advanced piece of technology for its time. If high-quality hardware and software do not lead to console gamers taking the plunge into VR and staying there regularly, then artificially low and heavily subsidized prices will not make it either.
Sony itself is confident: Two million devices should be ready for the launch. I wish Sony luck.