Virtual Reality is a very exciting prospect. For almost 30 years, it has been “just around the corner”, and I’ve often wondered if we’d be powering our new VR headsets with fusion power by the time they were ready. But 2016 looks set to be VR’s year. One headset will become the “standard” the flagship, the VHS and Blu-Ray, while the rest will be cast aside, going the way of Betamax and HD-DVD.
Yes, admittedly the headline spoiled it, it will be the Playstation VR.
The PSVR (I don’t know if that’s even an acronym people are using, but maybe it will start something) is arguably the weaker of the three big headsets. Compared with the HTC Vive and the Zuckerberg ego-powered Oculus Rift, the PSVR has a slightly lower image resolution at 960×1080 per eye and a lower field of view at 100 degrees. In comparison both the Rift and the Vive boast 1080×1200 resolution per eye with a 110-degree field of vision.
So why would the PSVR win out against more powerful rivals? Simple economics.
Just shy of 38 million PS4 consoles have been shipped since launch. The PSVR will retail at $USD 399 and while you do need to fork out for a PS4 camera ($USD 40-50) that still represents the most accessible entry in to the VR market. The Rift is $USD 599 and the Vive is an eye-watering $USD 799, although with the Vive you do get two hand held motion trackers and two tracking and movement sensors.
On top of that, both the Rift and the Vive need pretty hefty PCs to run. So if you don’t already have a PC, or don’t have one powerful enough to cope, double that price.
The PSVR takes advantage of the fact that people have a box already that will capably run the headset. In the PC world, trying to create a rig that meets or exceeds all the required specs will be tricky, especially because we are in uncharted territory and everyone is doing this for the first time. For many people, the technological know-how required to get the Rift and Vive working smoothly will be too much. The plug in and play appeal of the Playstation VR will win out.
If I had the money, of course I would go for something like the Vive. The motion tracking hand peripherals and the separate tracking cameras will no doubt give a higher quality VR experience. But I don’t have the money, I don’t have a PC. I do have a PS4, and so I’ll buy a Playstation VR.