Why Sony’s PSVR 2 Has No Real Chance to Climb Out of Meta’s Shadow

Why Sony’s PSVR 2 Has No Real Chance Climb Out of Meta’s Shadow
Sony Interactive Entertainment/Meta Platforms

After confirming the name of its Playstation VR successor would simply be PSVR 2 at CES in January, before further detailing specs in February, Sony is rumored to be sending out emails hinting that an official showcase for PSVR 2 is imminent.

Similar to how Sony is rejiggering its approach to PlayStation’s subscriptions, this update to its virtual-reality headset for gaming was long expected.

But data from IDC makes it clear the PSVR brand has a significant uphill battle to stand out among other VR headsets once again.

Per its annual tracking of headset shipments, IDC found that PSVR wasn’t just well below the 78% share of 11.2 million shipments exhibited by the Meta Quest 2 (formerly known as Oculus Quest 2), it failed to rank among the top five headset manufacturers, with Chinese companies DPVR, ByteDance-owned Pico Interactive, HTC and iQIYI selling the most headsets after Meta.

While VR is still a relatively niche medium for gaming and other interactive experiences, the speed with which Meta knocked PSVR out of the running as the standout headset from 2019 to 2020 via Quest 2 was nothing short of cutthroat.

As vicious of a competitive leap forward as this was for Meta, the reasons behind it were simple.

For one, the number of cords, connections and accessories required to get PSVR set up for use drew many complaints. Beyond that, there was also the fact that buying a PSVR headset also meant buying a PS4 console if you didn’t already own one.

By contrast, Quest and its second iteration were cordless and required no extra hardware to operate after purchasing.

Good thing Sony and the PSVR 2 are hitting back with better features that ... have nothing to do with either of those things.

To be fair, the PSVR2 does remove the required PS Camera connection for a smoother operating process, but is not fully wireless and of course still requires a PS5 for use, effectively cementing PS5 owners as the only ground to gain in achieving a better share of VR shipments sold going forward.

That doesn’t mean substantial improvements in viewable pixels, field of view and vision tracking aren’t going to appeal to tech enthusiasts, but it’s important to remember the Valve Index was already developed as a more tech-intensive VR option and is selling about as poorly as PSVR has been over the last two years when compared with the headsets from Meta and leading Chinese entities.

Much like what makes PlayStation a leading console brand, the PSVR 2’s only realistic option to gain ground is going to be the games it offers — specifically AAA-quality games compatible with PSVR.

Given that many AAA studios already deal with the development challenge of making their games playable on both PS4 and PS5 hardware, it will always be easier for Sony to just collaborate with them on new games intended for PSVR. But only sticking to that model is a wasted opportunity.

“Hitman 3” hit 50 million players within a year of its release, making it the most popular installment of IO Interactive’s new “Hitman” trilogy, and was also PSVR-compatible from launch, with reception to the VR mode positive enough for IO to further develop a PC VR version that launched this year.

Likewise, Capcom’s “Resident Evil 7” was an instant hit when it released in 2017, not just because of its reimagined take on the long-running horror franchise but also because the multiplatform game was fully playable on PSVR, with almost 10% of its players experiencing the game that way. When follow-up “Resident Evil Village” launched without PSVR compatibility, there was prominent disappointment.

Next-generation PSVR games are certainly in the works, as confirmed by Epic Games’ presentation last week for the launch of Unreal Engine 5. The PSVR 2 logo was shown amongst a collage of studio logos already working with the next Unreal engine, so there are certainly big games in the periphery.

But until we see the full scope of what the new PSVR hopes to achieve, it remains difficult to see what if anything can be done to regain its former momentum.