Is PlayStation VR Potentially Setting Up Another Vita-Style Failure

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I’ve been a fan of PlayStation since I was a kid meaning I’ve bought every little thing Sony threw the “PlayStation” brand on (PSP, Vita, PS1 through 4, etc.). I’ve fallen for every trap door and gimmick they put out there, heck I even had an Xperia Play! It’s because of people like me that Sony restructured itself and is now slapping “PlayStation” on anything it can think of.

Yet here I am kind of burnt out on failed PlayStation adventures and packaging their Virtual Reality endeavor as another PlayStation product is kind of pushing me away… PlayStation doesn’t have a good track record outside of core consoles and maybe the PSP.  This is why watching PS VR tread the same road that Vita took is frightening as a consumer and a fan.

Looking at it, Sony is taking the same approach it took with Vita with PS VR. Which makes no sense to me. Vita was a downright failure because Sony was unprepared for it. Meanwhile PS4 has been a major success just like all their other consoles simply because it follows that same successful formula. So why not follow in the PS4’s footsteps instead?

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A Blind Price Point

I don’t want to say Sony is downright lying about anything, but they have this gimmick sometimes where they toss out a cheap price on expensive hardware, then make up for it with a “catch.” This isn’t some infomercial promising something “too good to be true” this is hardware that people want, and Sony is cutting corners so that the initial price isn’t so scary. For Vita it was simple. We had a super awesome handheld that had amazing tech in it for a super low price, but there was a catch. You had to buy memory cards to make the Vita function at all and Sony forced us to buy proprietary memory cards which to this day cost way too much for such little storage.

PS VR is being no different. As of right now you need to buy the headset which is $399, but you also HAVE to buy the PlayStation Camera at bare minimum which is an additional $60. The device is pretty much just a paperweight without the camera and it isn’t included? Next you need controllers for some experiences. Sony notes the PS4 controllers will work, so that helps a lot of people, but they also note PS Move controllers might be needed. Thankfully PS Move is one of those failed adventures I mentioned before and Move controllers are dirt cheap… at least for now. Next Sony always demonstrated PS VR with their Gold Wireless Headsets which cost $99. From what I can tell, PS VR has no in-house speakers so to get a full experience you will need a good pair of headphones, possibly wireless. At the end of the day if we are required to purchase all of this then the PS VR experience is a 500-600 dollar adventure. That’s still cheap in regards to VR, but think about it as a parent buying it for Christmas. Do you really want to be blind-sided by an additional 200 dollars? Also suggest that someone without a PS4 wants to jump in, they need to come up with $900 for a gaming experience.

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So Many Games, Yet We Can’t Name Any

One thing with Vita was Sony touting how many games were in development for the longest time. “Oh Vita will have so many games on launch” or games “being in development” and so many studios working on it. Which was great at first. Vita launched with a strong line up, had a good first year, and then it dropped off. Sony hoped third parties would start carrying it and it didn’t happen. Eventually, like most of Sony’s adventures, even Sony studios started switching back to exclusively PS4 adventures.

So far PS VR has that same treatment. We are getting “50 games” on launch, yet we can name maybe 1 of them. Star Wars Battlefront. Yes this is awesome news, and Sony jumped on announcing that right away to get attention, but where is everything else? The other confirmed games are new to me (except Until Dawn) and we have seen very little of all of them. Every time I tested PS VR it was always tech demo style games with no real importance. These games are cool for jumping in and making you feel awesome, but then you crave a real experience and we have yet to see one. These tech demo games get old real fast.

We have yet to see how Sony will continue to support PS VR beyond the first year. We have a few developers that say they might test the waters, but no developers really jumping on board. What will Sony do to help get core games translated to VR? Will we be spending $400 on another indie inspired Sony adventure? We never get answers to this specifically, and instead we get “well there are a lot of people working on it.” Simply put, come E3, we better know exactly WHO is working on it, and what specific games we can expect to see. More importantly we better see a ton of support for extended periods of time by Sony itself.

In fact what helps many projects is big title games. Look at PSP compared to Vita. PSP had Grand Theft Auto, Star Wars Battlefront, Monster Hunter, and Daxter for a quick list. Vita had Uncharted, a half assed Call of Duty, and Assassin’s Creed.

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Will Sony Make Developers Choose?

Another point to this is the functionality of the device. It works with PS4 and it so far seems streamless across the platform. Vita failed to do that. A big selling point of Vita was “on the go experiences” mixed with coming home and finishing the game on a console. That experience never happened and Sony failed to exploit ideas like that because they never really offered a way to port games over. Instead Sony paid studios to make cheap knock offs of hit titles. Hi Resistance: Burning Skies, how you doing?

PS VR on the other hand seems like it has a built in PS4 focus, as in it needs that functionality, so it will be hard for Sony to mess it up. The problem is, will developers have to decide between VR and PS4? Because if they do, PS4 will always win that battle. Yet let’s say PS4 doesn’t win that battle, do I now need to buy a VR headset to simply enjoy my PS4?  

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While it is easy to downplay the PlayStation VR simply based on track record of past projects, there is some hope that things will be different. Not everything Sony has put “PlayStation” on has been a failure, there have been some positive adventures too. The PlayStation headsets would be a great example, or PSP would be too. So what feels different about PS VR that still gives it that hope?

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Why I Have More Hope Than Vita

Vita jumped into a battleground that was simply too big to win. Nintendo threw out the 3DS at the same time and they too struggled, but the difference is that 3DS is a flagship product for Nintendo. That meant Nintendo put a lot more effort into ensuring 3DS survived. Sony on the other hand simply didn’t care. Their eyes were set on PS4 and making the console succeed, Vita was left wondering in the wind. Case and point, Sony won’t drop the price on their memory cards, but Nintendo has adjusted the 3DS price numerous times. Sadly this is how a lot of Sony’s adventures have failed, but PS VR feels a little different.

Supposedly VR is the “future of gaming” and Sony wants a piece of that pie. They want to stay ahead of the game and, unless new technology releases that is better than VR, this is where the game is going. Sony NEEDS PS VR to succeed for many different reasons. This opens up a new market for them, and it keeps them in the physical hardware business as games start to transform to digital experiences, slowly pushing consoles aside for more streaming situations. Sony already noted they are treating PS VR as new PlayStation and not a peripheral, so technically PS VR is PS5 which is good news. That means Sony won’t be quick to give up on it.

From what I can tell, Sony has also already dumped a ton of money into PS VR. Remember this experience has been in the making for years.

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So Far Sony Is Focused

When Vita released Sony had opened up all kinds of paths to go. We had PlayStation Mobile, Xperia was getting mobile experiences, PSTV, and Sony really didn’t know how to approach the Vita as a unique experience. Vita instead opened up and changed directions so many times that people gave up. Why not just get a smartphone? Well the Vita offered console-like experiences (the entire purpose of Vita was to do just that), right? No, Sony decided we didn’t want that anymore so instead we got…. Mobile experiences.  

PS VR so far is a VR experience that will have high end games and indie games. Sony made that clear right away that both ends of the spectrum will be accomplished. They want fun unique experiences via the headset. It isn’t a movie theater, it isn’t a Facebook app, and it’s simply a fun experience. Sony knows where they stand in this battle and they are sticking to it. They are not trying to compete across the board, they are simply trying to compete in the field they are best at.  They are letting their game division handle it, and once it gets going perhaps other divisions will start to become more of a focus for VR.

Overall when new tech hits the market it is never easy to predict what will happen at all. VR can easily be another gimmick that dies out within a year or two, or it could become the next great thing. With so many companies pushing for it I don’t think VR will fade quickly no matter what, so that is a good thing for early adopters. Yet Sony doesn’t have the strongest track record of keeping things afloat so it’s still scary to be an early adopter in that regard. Those that got burned by Vita shouldn’t feel bad when they wait a little while to pick up PS VR.