In my house right this very second, next to my PC, is a brand new consumer Oculus Rift. An Oculus Rift I don't use very much.
Friends come round, I show them the Rift. I show them virtual reality. The 'future'. They lose their minds. Then they leave, go back to their homes.
I turn off the Rift. I go back to playing Overwatch. I go back to Dark Souls 3. I go back to whatever video game I was playing before they arrived.
It's not that I don't enjoy virtual reality because I absolutely do. I'm in love with the idea of virtual reality. Immersion is a dead word in video game land, but virtual reality is a medium that represents a new, truer immersion. An immersion that sucks you out of the real world into a virtual space. This sounds like hyperbole. It sounds like marketing drivel but anyone who's used an Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive understands there's a truth there.
Modern day virtual reality is incredible.
But on the Oculus Rift particularly the dearth of content is a serious problem. Unless friends are over, unless I have someone new to dazzle, the Rift largely sits unused. It has nothing to do with the quality of the hardware and everything to do with a serious lack of content. I have nothing to play. Nothing to watch. Nothing compelling at least.
Okay, let's talk about PlayStation VR
Very few people are talking about it, but post-E3 I've become more convinced than ever that PlayStation VR represents Virtual Reality's best chance of mainstream success.
With the PlayStation 4, Sony has a device that currently sits in over 40 million homes. Lifetime sales are projected to hit around 100 million. This generation the PlayStation 4 has dominated. It has become the default current generation console for a mainstream audience ala the Wii and PlayStation 2 before it.
The PlayStation 4 is a consistent piece of hardware. There will be no anxiety, no questions. You will not need to upgrade your hardware. When PlayStation VR is launched consumers will be able to buy a VR headset, plug it into a PS4 with limited set-up and consume VR content with ease.
PlayStation VR will cost anything between $550 and $640. About the same as a new phone or a new console. It will be available in-stores. It will not be something you need to order online. It will not be a device you need to pay over $1000 for. There might be limited stock in the early going, but Sony will catch up. Sony will make enough headsets to meet demand. A month or two after launch you will be able to walk into a JB Hi-Fi and buy PlayStation VR for $550. You will not need to wait, you will not need to watch your tracking ID like a hawk, wondering when the Oculus Rift unit you pre-ordered months ago will arrive at your doorstep.
The reality: both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are niche items aimed at early-adopters with money to burn. It could be years before these products are mainstream ready. PlayStation VR will be mainstream ready at an accessible price point at launch.
But perhaps more importantly, PlayStation VR will launch with content.
It will launch with video games worth playing. After that launch it will be supported with a steady stream of compelling VR experiences.
You will be able to play Gran Turismo Sport with PlayStation VR. This year.
You will be able to play Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR with PlayStation VR. This year.
You will be able to play Rocksteady's new Batman: Arkham VR game using PlayStation VR. This year.
Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood. This year.
Final Fantasy XV. This year.
Resident Evil 7. January of next year.
These are all virtual reality experiences exclusive to PlayStation VR and there's plenty more where that came from.
The potential of all VR is stratospheric. We all know that. But there's been a sense that VR, up until this point, has been dead on arrival. It's expensive, inaccessible and difficult to use for the majority of people. Worst of all, it's actually difficult to buy. Even today, months after release my Oculus Rift is a novelty experienced by very few. I'm the only person in my friend group who has one. One of the few in my professional tech circle that has one.
That will almost certainly not be the case with PlayStation VR. People will buy PlayStation VR. They will buy it because they are being given the opportunity to buy it. That is not the case with the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, at least here in Australia.
The PlayStation VR is different. This is a consumer product for the mainstream consumer. It is a device that will have interesting content on launch with more to come in the very near future. The quality of the VR compared to the Rift and the Vive is almost irrelevant at this point, because most people haven't even used a VR headset and even if they have the differences will be negligible to the point where quality won't necessarily matter.
At the moment, it feels as though PlayStation VR is virtual reality's best hope for success.