Across the board, VR headsets are going up in price. Just look at Meta’s Quest Pro, which costs a whopping $1,500. That trend seems to be continuing with the PlayStation VR2, which we now know we retail at $550 ($50 more than the PS5 it hooks up to). These lavish prices signal that the entry-level days of VR are coming to an end, and that companies may be comfortable courting hardcore fans of the tech who want more powerful and impressive hardware.
But will this high pricing pay off for companies like Sony? Look at the comments on the PlayStation Blog post or tweet about the PlayStation VR2’s release date, and you’ll see how divided the opinions are already. For someone looking to get into VR for the first time with PlayStation’s new headset, that big price tag may be off-putting, creating doubt that we’ll see VR break into the mainstream in the way manufacturers had hoped.
While some of the current VR price changes may seem like a tough sell, these decisions are more practical than you might think. As soon as you start digging into the nuances of the tech, it becomes clear why prices are going up and why it might pay off for companies like Sony. That said, there’s a good case both for and against PS VR2’s $550 price tag. Which one is right in the long run might be more about Sony’s ability to follow through than initial reactions from fans.
To get some context on the current state of VR, I spoke with George Jijiashvili, principal analyst at Omdia. Jijiashvili was surprised by the price point, as Omdia expected PlayStation VR2 to be priced less than the PS5. Still, he explained the factors that likely led to this PlayStation VR2 pricing decision. To start, expensive VR headsets like the $999 Valve Index “underlined the demand for high-end VR headsets on PC, so Sony must have been encouraged to pursue higher-than-expected PlayStation VR2 pricing,” Jijiashvili says.
Selling a PSVR with its controllers at a higher price than the PlayStation console is not without precedent.
He also pointed out that the original model of the first PlayStation VR was $399, the same price as a PS4 Slim, when it launched in 2016. That said, it didn’t come with a PlayStation Camera or PlayStation Move controllers, which were required to play specific games. Bundles featuring those items that came after the fact would cost players more than a PS4. While the PlayStation VR2 doesn’t need a camera, the base $550 version does come with its new proprietary Sense controllers. Jijiashvili believes the cost of the technology included justifies its price tag.
“On reflection, selling a PSVR with its controllers at a higher price than the PlayStation console is not without precedent,” Jijiashvili explained. “Sony must not have encountered significant pushback on this six years ago, so they’ve opted for a similar pricing strategy now with PlayStation VR2 … PlayStation VR2 also offers significantly improved hardware specs over PlayStation VR, which come at increased component and manufacturing costs.”
People will pay more for PlayStation VR2, but they’ll get more with it too. Additionally, Jijiashvili believes the high price point will potentially protect the PlayStation VR2 from an issue that’s plagued the Meta Quest 2.
“$550 future-proofs PlayStation VR2’s price against ongoing high inflation,” Jijiashvili says, referencing the Meta Quest 2 and PS5 price hikes that happened earlier this year. The PlayStation VR2 will hopefully hold that high price point for quite some time, for better or worse. Overall, Jijiashvili is still optimistic about the success of PlayStation VR2, although it won’t be as much of a runaway success as the PS5.
“Despite higher-than-expected price point, Omdia remains optimistic about PlayStation VR2’s chances of success,” he says. “Omdia’s preliminary estimates indicate that as many as 4 million PlayStation VR2 headsets could be sold in the first two years of its availability, achieving attach rate of about 8% with users of PS5 consoles.”
While Sony has its reasons for pricing the system where it did, some caveats stand out. A wired connection to a PS5 is required to use PlayStation VR2, effectively making it up to a $1,050 investment overall. That will limit who can afford to play the new system, and that’s before you buy any games. On the subject of software, original PlayStation VR titles are not inherently backward compatible either. Games like Pistol Whip are getting PlayStation VR2 updates, but new and old users will likely pay full price for most of what they play on PS VR2.
The cost of all this quickly adds up and will likely limit the number of games some people can buy for the headset. If the PlayStation VR2 were cheaper, new users would have a bit more money to potentially spend on games. In its current state, hardcore VR enthusiasts with a library of upgradeable games will benefit the most.
Even Jijiashvili admits that the PlayStation VR2 gears itself toward that hardcore VR community. “Sony has made a conscious decision to target its core, dedicated console player audience,” he says. “This is in stark difference to Meta’s approach with Quest 2, which is geared towards expanding the addressable base of VR, beyond a typical console/PC gamer.”
Although Jijiashvili believes that “positioning PlayStation VR2 as the leading destination for high-end, next-gen VR experiences will be a key pillar of its success,” I’m less bullish on the idea that high-end visuals will be enough to draw people in. Before it can become mainstream, the VR industry’s biggest challenge is balancing pricing, usability, and technological prowess. No one has achieved the perfect balance yet, and it looks like that will remain the case after PlayStation VR2.
Ultimately, it’ll be up to Sony’s long-term support of the system to justify the price tag. While that’s a bit of a catch-22 situation considering my prior concerns about games, the PlayStation VR2 needs ample support at launch and beyond to convince people that it will be worth $550. Jijiashvili agrees, adding: “In order to justify the $550 price tag, Sony will need to demonstrate a big commitment to VR … The reveal of 11 new/revamped PlayStation VR2 games is certainly an encouraging start, but it will need to deliver more in time for PlayStation VR2’s launch to guarantee its success.”
Sony’s track record is mixed in this department. The PS Vita and original PlayStation VR had strong exclusives around their respective launches but waned in strong first-party support as their lifespans progressed. If Sony wants PlayStation VR2 to be a mainstream success, it’ll need to double down on software. You can expect some to be hesitant to pay so much when they don’t know what the game lineup looks like a year or two from now.
While there are reasons for and against PlayStation VR2’s $550 cost, at that price level, Sony is introducing another long-term entertainment investment on the status of a PS5. Its biggest challenge ahead of the PlayStation VR2’s launch is messaging that it’s a worthwhile VR choice, and clearly, only some hardcore fans are convinced.
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