Sony yesterday set the price of its PlayStation VR headset at $399 and said it will be available in October — not “the first half of 2016” as it had originally planned — to ensure it has enough units to satisfy demand and enough software to satisfy gamers’ appetites.
“That price could almost be considered cheap if you already own a PlayStation 4, and even if you don't, the total cost is much less than Sony's VR competitors,” writes Sean O’Kane for The Verge. “The Oculus Rift starts at $599 and Valve's HTC Vive will sell for $799, but both of those headsets require powerful PCs that can cost much more than the $299 PS4.”
“The three platforms comprise the high end of the VR spectrum, with each device being tethered to some kind of powerful computing system,” Daniel Terdiman reports for Fast Company. “Samsung’s Gear VR, which has been out since last fall, goes for $99. Holding down the middle range of the spectrum, it is powered by a Samsung smartphone. The low end is led by Google’s Cardboard, which has been available in many forms for more than a year.”
The cardboard players, which start at $15, also only require a smartphone. The PlayStation VR headset, on the other hand, not only requires PlayStation 4 but also a PS4 camera that must be purchased separately for $60, reports Zorine Te for Gamespot.com. Also, Move controllers, which cost $50 each, will be needed to play some games.
“Is this the moment that virtual reality becomes an actual reality?” asks Alex Kidman on the Australian Broadcasting Corp. blog “The Drum,” pointing out that it “has been the stuff of heavy hype and all too often crushing disappointment” for decades.
“Based on its own history, you wouldn't necessarily pick Sony to break this cycle of hype and failure,” he writes. “But where Sony once stood on the ‘Betamax’ side of so many technology battles, in the VR space it could have a ‘VHS’ on its hands, a solution that's not necessarily the best, but is the most widely adopted.”
That not only has a lot to do with the pricing but also with the amount of games that will be available.
“Sony says there will be 20 games available at launch and there are more than 230 developers currently making games for the new headset,’ reports Rod Chester of the News Corp Australia Network, “The cinematic mode means you can also use it when playing conventional PS4 games and watching movies.”
More than 50 games should be available by the holiday shopping season this year, according to Sony.
“Industry experts said that this was the best opportunity for VR technology — long the province of Sci-Fi movies — to move into the consumer mainstream,” writes Keith Stuart for The Guardian. “The PS4 install base is huge — over 35 million units have been sold,” Dan Page of Opposable VR tells him.
But VR, if folks like Mark Zuckerberg have their way, won’t just be confined to gaming.
“Virtual reality, which provides users with an immersive experience, is expected to generate a huge market in the coming years, with applications far beyond video games, including travel, health care and education,” write Takashi Mochizuki and Sarah E. Needleman for the Wall Street Journal. “Researchers at Gartner Inc. forecast nearly 40 million headsets will be sold world-wide by 2020.”
And there will be branding opportunities in social VR as well.
Sony Computer Entertainment America president and CEO Shawn Layden tellsTime’s Matt Peckham that PlayStation VR is much more than an accessory.
“We’re positioning it more as a platform than a peripheral … this is a completely different way to experience a thing,” he says. “We believe now is the time that there is a, not only an interest and a hunger for it, but the creative teams we’re working with are really excited by what they can realize, what they can visualize.”
The accountants at the Sony City headquarters complex in Minato, Tokyo, are no doubt doing their own giddy, goggle-less visualizations of what virtual reality will bring to future bottom lines.