Sony PlayStation's PSVR 2 officially has a release date, six years after the launch of the console giant's first virtual reality headset,. And its arrival is not far off, with Sony’s ambitious new VR headset hitting the market on February 23, 2023. For most, however, any excitement for the VR 2’s release date has likely been quickly evaporated at the sight of the headset’s exorbitant price.
Priced at $549.99 / £529.99 / AU$859, the PSVR 2 is set to cost more than the PS5 console itself, which is a little unfathomable at a time when the global economy is suffering from a cost of living crisis and the probability of a recession looming large. Still, as eye-wateringly high as the price tag is, it's not entirely unexpected.
Much like the initial PSVR, the PSVR sequel will launch as a VR headset roughly in the lower mid-range of pricing for such headsets. Far cheaper than the recently released Meta Quest Pro for example, yet more expensive than the slightly older Oculus (Meta) Quest 2.
The price comparison between the PSVR 2’s and the Meta Quest Pro is probably more significant in my point of view, given that both are launching into the same economic climate at high price points. The PSVR 2 is less of a financial blow by comparison to the Quest Pro, but customers will still be treading carefully regardless. Even so, the PSVR 2's capabilities stack up extraordinarily well against its Meta rival, arguably justifying its high cost.
Panel resolution for the PSVR 2 comes in at a very solid 2000 x 2040 per eye, compared to 1800 x 1920 in the Quest Pro at three times the price. Sony’s upcoming headset also looks to have the Quest Pro beat for field of view and panel refresh rate. And it offers more cameras to help position sensing, which makes up for having fewer motion sensors than its competitor.
What I'm arguing here is that the PSVR 2, at its price point, actually has plenty to offer and punches above its weight in a way that makes Meta’s top-range model look rather overpriced by comparison.
Still, there’s no escaping the fact that the PSVR 2 will be releasing at a time and with a price where a vast majority of consumers – even those who might otherwise have been anticipating the PSVR 2’s release – sadly won’t be able to consider it as an option. And this is even before acknowledging that production of the PSVR 2 is likely already running at a loss for Sony.
PSVR 2, show me the games!
Any loss worn by Sony would have been made up for by future game sales tied to its new headset – such has always been the way with console economics – but this amounts to a bet that Sony can never fully guarantee will pay off. And signs appear to suggest that it may not.
It can be reasonably predicted that sales numbers for the PSVR 2 will be modest at best thanks to its price turning off consumers in the present climate. So Sony’s bet rests entirely on what it can offer consumers in terms of compelling VR titles that keep them happy for the months and years ahead. A headline-grabbing game or two exclusive to Sony’s new headset in the early phase, in theory, could achieve this.
In a briefing to investors earlier this year, Sony promised 20 such game releases. Alongside the news of its release date and price, the gaming giant gave us a look at 11 of these. So are any of them the ‘killer apps’ PSVR 2 needs to get an early foothold? Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx sold a lot of PC VR HMDs – and that’s the sort of compelling must-have title the PSVR 2 will need.
The answer, of course, is entirely subjective. But based only on what we've been shown thus far, I’d argue that there’s no ‘must-have’ title coming out of the gates at launch.
Take The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR, for example – one of the handful of games shown off by PlayStation recently. Coming from Supermassive Games, the developers of the Dark Pictures Anthology series and previous PSVR horror title Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, Switchback VR sets you up on a rollercoaster ride through a series of horror events, spooks and scares. Sound familiar? It should, because that also describes Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. And does Switchback VR at least look noticeably better than its predecessor? No, not really.
Some of the other announced releases look a little bit more promising, albeit still a little unconvincing. Crossfire: Sierra Squad looks like a fun, frenetic FPS experience and, for a VR game, has eye-catching visuals. However, it doesn’t exactly stand out as the kind of must-have game anyone might willingly part with hard-earned cash just to be able to access. That’s also true of fellow announcement The Light Brigade, which doesn’t necessarily look bad so much as it just looks… OK.
Other titles incoming to the PSVR 2 but already accessible to those with older VR headsets, Meta Quest 2 included, were also announced – such as Pistol Whip and After The Fall. The inclusion of these in its showcase stands out as a bizarre choice by Sony, given this might drive gamers to consider existing VR headsets at cheaper prices.
Where to from here?
Ultimately, many gamers hoping to find a reason to justify spending big bucks on the PSVR 2 headset amidst a struggling economic climate may not be persuaded – at this stage at least. That spells potential danger for the PSVR 2’s impending launch in February.
While the current tough conditions are beyond its control, Sony will nevertheless go the distance and do everything possible to get the PSVR 2 onto as many heads as possible. The hardware is very impressive, and the actual value is also extremely strong when stacked up against PC equivalents – with PSVR being technically superior to most of them, in addition to being roughly half the price. The smart play for gamers would be to wait a little longer, hoping for a price drop and more compelling titles before taking the plunge.
And for Sony, it will absolutely be aware of the need to deliver the games and convincing incentives for gamers to willingly bear the price of the PSVR 2. A device like the PSVR 2 represents an immense engineering and marketing investment, and gaming history is littered with stories of similar cases where a great device has lacked compelling software and failed, even without the added factor of a likely recession becoming involved.
Still, the PSVR 2 is an impressive piece of hardware capable of providing a unique point of difference to its competitors in the virtual reality space, with the potential to take VR gaming further into the future.
It only remains to be seen if Sony will introduce the right tools to help its headset weather the storm that now awaits it.