Virtual reality is about to go mainstream for Christmas courtesy of Sony PlayStation VR. It’s the one VR platform whose purpose is crystal clear — gaming. Every kid will want one. If they don’t want it yet, they will once they see the neighbourhood kids playing VR games.
PSVR launches globally on Thursday and some stores will open at midnight. The event will be anticlimactic for some because Sony’s system is sold out at launch. The only people walking away with PlayStation VR on Thursday will be those who pre-ordered. The best you can do is order now to get one before Christmas, said Michael Ephraim, ANZ managing director at Sony Computer Entertainment.
Journalist Chris Griffith tries Playing Driverclub VR with Sony PlayStation VR
PSVR launches globally on Thursday and some stores will open at midnight to give the occasion razzmatazz. It will be anticlimactic for some because Sony’s system is sold out at launch. The only people walking away with PlayStation VRs on Thursday will be those who pre-ordered. The best you could do is order now to get one before Christmas, said Michael Ephraim, ANZ managing director at Sony Computer Entertainment.
The PSVR comes with a demo disk of eight titles and they include Driveclub VR, the alien dogfight game Eve Valkyrie, and PlayStation VR Worlds, which itself offers five experiences. There’s the terrifying white-pointer shark encounter in Ocean Descent, an equally terrifying ride at breakneck speed in VR Luge and The London Heist, where you dodge a hail of bullets in a getaway car with marauding bikies in pursuit.
Demos such as Ocean Descent will get your adrenaline flowing as the white pointer strips away the cage leaving you exposed to its pearly whites. As fantastic as it is, I can only play Ocean Descent so many times before it turns into Groundhog Day. How many white pointer attacks can one put up with in a day?
PlayStation VR’s success will depend on titles with enough twists and turns to keep you occupied for days. Farpoint, where you struggle to survive in an alien world, is one. Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, which puts you in a horror house, is another.
PSVR’s main rivals in the virtual reality market, Oculus VR and HTC/Steam, arguably offer better headsets. Both have slightly better resolution. The HTC Vive has motion-sensing controllers and more sophisticated tracking through its two lighthouses, while PlayStation offers more limited movement through its single-camera system.
But PlayStation VR is less complicated to set up, and at $549.95 costs hundreds less. It also doesn’t require an expensive PC graphics card upgrade. If you don’t have a Sony camera, you’ll pay $89 more. If you need a PS4, a new slimline version with 500GB of storage costs $399. Or you can pre-order the 4K-capable PS4 Pro Console with 1TB of storage for $559 due next month. That means $1200 for a top-notch system from scratch.
The shark in Ocean Descent bites away at the platform around you.
Then there’s content. Sony says about 50 games will be available at launch, costing from $30 to $90. About 100 publishers are working on VR content for Sony.
I’ve played around with PlayStation Vr several times now and I found the Sony headset to be very comfortable. There’s no velcro strap pressing against your head. You adjust the headset with two buttons. I normally wear reading glasses. I didn’t need them for PlayStation VR.
But Sony isn’t the only new virtual reality system around. Last week Google launched its Daydream View VR headset in San Francisco.
At $119 Daydream View sounds incredibly cheap, but you’ll also need a Google Pixel phone costing from $1079 to $1419. It sits in the back of the headset and drives the VR experience.
Several other manufacturers are gearing to make Daydream compatible phones. That together with Google’s backing will make Daydream a popular platform for virtual reality over time.
Daydream will offer VR games but lots of other content too. Netflix, Hulu and HBO are expected to offer VR movies where you are inside the plot and not just watching passively.
Google has formed a partnership with The New York Times which is producing documentaries in virtual reality viewed with Daydream. It says more than 50 partners will bring applications and games to Daydream before year’s end.
We’ve trialled our PlayStation VR review unit with staff at The Australian (see the video) and they are enthused about the potential of virtual reality. Many who had never tried VR before were surprised at the physical reaction they had to experiences such as Ocean Descent. This was despite knowing it is a game.
We will review PlayStation VR in depth shortly.