All of the veils have been lifted, and now we know everything we need to know about the PlayStation VR. If you’re an enthusiast like me, you were probably glued to a live-blog during Sony’s GDC presentation. In case you missed it (and haven’t seen any gaming news for the past few days at all), Sony’s VR platform is arriving in October. It’ll set you back $400, which sounds fair. Secretly I had been hoping for a $350 or even $300 price tag, but even at $400 I’m sure Sony is taking a loss on this one. So how does this stack up against the competition?
For the sake of brevity, I’m going to neglect the HTC Vive in this article, because I think it’s the odd man out here. I have a feeling (and I could be wrong) that the majority of early adopters will be deciding between PlayStation VR and the Oculus Rift when considering which HMD to buy. I say this mainly because Oculus VR has a much larger network of developers supporting it at the moment, and the Vive is prohibitively expensive at $800 (especially considering the PC you’ll need to power it). Between PS VR and the Rift, then, which is set to dominate 2016 and usher in the age of VR on their respective platforms most gracefully? Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape:
Timing: Advantage Rift
The Rift will start shipping out at the end of this month. It’s practically here already, so there’s really no contest. We’ll have to wait until the end of October to play with the PlayStation VR, and by that time we’ll already be neck-deep in reviews for games, movies, and experiences running on Oculus VR’s platform. Oculus has over half a year to win over patiently-waiting VR enthusiasts, and by the time PlayStation VR starts ramping up its marketing and promotion, Oculus Touch will be changing the game again.
Pricing: Advantage PlayStation VR
Even with the added cost of the PS4 camera and a couple of Move controllers (which are optional), PlayStation VR still comes in a hundred bucks cheaper than the Rift. If you’re starting from scratch the price gap increases dramatically. If don’t own a PS4 you’re looking at another $300, but what if you need to buy a VR-ready PC? The cheapest Oculus-ready PCs that ship with the HMD itself start at around $1,500. That’s a huge investment, and one that many aren’t likely to make without several good reasons. On the other hand, 30 million PS4 owners are just looking for a few good games to justify putting PS VR on their holiday gift lists.
Hardware: Advantage Rift
Look, Sony has come right out and said it: the PlayStation VR isn’t as powerful as the Oculus Rift. With PS VR, we’ll be looking at a single OLED display, 1920×1080 resolution, with a refresh rate of 120 Hz. The Rift features an OLED display for each eye, cranking out visuals at a resolution of 2160×1200, and even the minimum spec PCs powering this thing are going to be capable of more than what the PlayStation 4 can handle.
Appeal: Advantage PlayStation VR
PlayStation is a name we’re familiar with, and especially this generation, it’s a name that we associate with great exclusives. Sony was wise to hold off announcing the PS VR price point, and its GDC presentation made a huge impact. Pre-orders for PlayStation VR sold out on Amazon UK in 13 minutes. It doesn’t matter how well they’re integrated for VR, if Sony can put the power of Uncharted, God of War, Crash Bandicoot, or Horizon: Zero Dawn behind its platform, it’s going to sell well.
Predicted Winner: PlayStation VR
I’m saying this as someone who’s budgeting to purchase a VR-ready PC in 2016: I think PlayStation VR is going to come out of this initial wave of hardware as the clear choice for the majority of gamers. I don’t think the Rift will fail, I just think Sony’s HMD will sell way more. Oculus will show the general public that VR is worth the investment, and then the holiday season will see the promotion of a cheaper, more pragmatic, and equally impressive piece of hardware. Games for PS VR will be so polished, so optimized, that I doubt we’ll see a big difference in quality between what’s running on the PS4 and what’s running on $1,500 PCs. Thus spake Matthew.