Since the launch of the Oculus Rift’s Kickstarter campaign back in 2012, virtual reality has become a frequently discussed topic in the gaming industry, and it’s seen by many as an imminent game-changer for the medium. And if the recent influx of competitors unveiled by Steam, Microsoft, and others says anything, it’s that hardware developers see massive potential in the virtual reality business.
One of the first companies to jump on the VR bandwagon was Sony with Project Morpheus, now officially titled PlayStation VR. The prototype headset was first announced at GDC 2014, and has since been featured at almost every gaming convention attended by PlayStation. Though hands-on demos of the peripheral’s capabilities have been generally well-received by consumers and the press alike, the future of VR still remains questionable. In fact, when considering PlayStation’s lackluster marketing campaign in conjunction with possible hardware dependencies, PlayStation VR may very well be on a road (right behind the Vita and the Move) towards disaster.
Sony has always been known for developing top-tier hardware, and it would appear that PlayStation VR is no exception. After every reported convention demo, video game and tech journalists almost unanimously praise the VR headset for its on-par capabilities (on-par, that is, with the Rift and other top contenders) and, most especially, for its superb software. Featuring game-like experiences like The London Heist, EVE: Valkyrie, and The Deep, PlayStation VR’s hands-on demos have all but sold critics on the new tech.
The London Heist Gameplay
Unfortunately, these experiences are difficult to convey to millions of viewers at home. While standard video games can depend heavily on gameplay footage to speak for itself, the new dynamic of VR cannot be so easily displayed. Ironically, this makes PlayStation’s marketing campaign absolutely crucial to PSVR’s success.
This campaign is not off to a great start. At PlayStation’s E3 press conference this past June, the then Project Morpheus was given all of two minutes stage time to do little more than announce a VR exclusive multiplayer title and remind gamers that Project Morpheus is still “real.” More recently, the prototype was dubbed the PlayStation VR at the Tokyo Game Show, where we also received what might be a first glimpse at PSVR’s real marketing campaign.
PlayStation VR Spot at Tokyo Game Show
While most of the highly-acclaimed software is featured in this ad, it seems to miss why everyone is so excited about VR. When discussing his experience with ADR1FT – a first-person experience wherein an astronaut must navigate the wreckage of her demolished ship to survive – on the Oculus Rift, journalist Vince Ingenito goes so far as to say that experiencing the vastness of the rendered outer space was something just short of a “religious experience.” This wow factor could prove to be extremely valuable in a marketing campaign, yet PlayStation seems content with displaying a mediocre montage of gameplay highlights, one of which featured an extremely gimmicky family style game wherein Dad dodges assorted furniture and other nonsense thrown by the kiddies. Sony seems to be unaware of their product’s awesome potential, and this ignorance may have caused confusion and trepidation in targeting a demographic.
Broken marketing campaign aside, pricing may also contribute to PSVR’s potential downfall. PlayStation President and CEO Andrew House recently stated in an interview that PSVR will be priced as a gaming platform. This could be interpreted in a couple ways, but considering a separate interview with Oculus CEO Palmer Lucky wherein he puts expectations for the Rift’s pricing at or above $350, it could be safe to bet PSVR will be in the same ballpark.
The latest fashion, coming 2016
Whether this bodes well or not for virtual reality in general is yet to be seen, but there are many signs that PSVR might be going for a considerable amount more than anticipated, due to necessary outside purchases. It is known that convention demos such as The London Heist have featured usage of the notorious PS Move. Also, in the TGS ad, actors enjoying the head-mounted display can be seen using the motion controller for various titles. This all begs the question: will PSVR titles require the PS Move?
Though the DualShock 4 has the same capabilities as a PS Move controller, it would appear the latter has become a fundamental tool in many of the titles coming to PSVR’s exclusives. With the possibility of another peripheral being attached at the hip of PSVR, pricing for the new PlayStation experience could put it far behind its competitors. Throw the PlayStation Eye (PlayStation’s camera peripheral) into the equation, and watch Project Morpheus receive a big fat F.
Playstation VR has yet to be given a release date, though Sony has stated that it should launch in the first half of 2016.