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Sony’s next PS VR helmet is VR’s best chance at going mainstream

VR is the future. There’s little point in arguing that fact. At some point, the technology will be so streamlined and integrated that it will be as common as smartphones. However, VR is currently struggling to find a foothold in the mainstream. It has been getting better over the past decade or so since it started being widely commercially available, but it has never managed to hit a wide audience. A lot of major companies are throwing their weight behind these headsets, too. Facebook, Valve, and Google are some of the biggest tech giants in the world, but even their headsets aren’t finding mass appeal.

Why, then, would Sony’s upcoming VR headset succeed where other tech heavyweights have failed? Sony’s original PlayStation VR was comparatively underpowered at the time, so what makes Sony VR’s last chance to catch the public’s eye, if you’ll pardon the pun? It has a few unique advantages in its favor, but I believe it will only work if the PS VR 2 has a few key features.

PlayStation’s unique position

PSVR 2 Controllers.

PlayStation stands alone as the only home console manufacturer investing in the VR space. Nintendo technically tried way too early with the Virtual Boy and hasn’t looked back since, and Microsoft toyed with the idea of augmented reality (AR) via HoloLens on Xbox One, but never followed through. PlayStation’s PS VR for the PS4 was the only console-compatible VR headset on the market, and proved just how much people valued convenience over specs.

The PS VR is not a powerful headset. The PS VR has a resolution of 1920 x 1080, used the PlayStation camera to track movement, and either the regular DualShock 4 controller or old PS3 Move controllers. The highest-end headset at the time, released earlier the same year, had a resolution of 2160 x 1200, used base station cameras for room scale, and supported the Vive controllers, plusit had other advantages like built-in microphones and headphones.

However, those other headsets had flaws, too. Not only did every other VR headset have to be hooked up to a PC, they also had big price tags. At launch, PSVR was $200 to $300 cheaper than the launch price for all other, more powerful headsets on the market.

Valve is in the closest position to Sony in this regard, owning Steam and (occasionally) developing games. The main difference is the fact that Steam games run on PCs, which can vary wildly in power between any two systems. Even today, there’s a prevailing perception that powerful PCs require you to be a technological wizard who is willing to spend a lot of time, and even more money, to build one. On the other hand, if you’ve already got a PlayStation, then once you get the headset, you’re VR ready. Simple. (This era of chip shortages causing consoles themselves to be hard to find is a wrinkle that Sony can’t really control.)

The PS5, despite all the challenges facing it, is still the fastest-selling PlayStation system of all time. Sales will eventually level out over time as stock finally catches up, but for now, the sales are extremely promising, which is vital for the PS VR 2. The original PS VR only did so well because of the massive success of the PS4, and if the PS5 is selling even better, then Sony is in a perfect position to take VR as a whole to the next level.

What PS VR 2 needs to be

A woman reaching out while wearing a VR headset.
Mark Nazh/Shutterstock

Just shipping out a more powerful version of the PS VR and calling it a day isn’t going to work. VR, even when tied to the success and ease of use of the PS5, is still a hard sell for most people. Before VR can really show people what it is capable of and grow beyond the niche audience it currently has, people have to want to bring it into their homes. Again, this is an area Sony can capitalize on that no other company can, if it does a few very important things right.

First up is the price. Sony managed to do pretty well pricing the original PS VR, although it may have been a bit on the high side. It was basically the price of an additional console, which is a big ask for what most people look at as a peripheral. Even over specs or software, price is the number one thing most consumers will look at before even considering adding an extra piece of tech.

The PS5 is expensive, but not overly so. The market has clearly shown that it hit a sweet spot based on it selling out within hours each time stock is available. The headset cannot cost as much as the console this time around. Sony might have to sell the PS VR 2 at a bit of a loss if it wants to see long-term success. Right now, the cheaper digital edition of the PS5 costs $400, so a VR headset should, at the least, cost $50 below that. If Sony can make it $300, that would probably convert a lot more people early on who might otherwise be on the fence.

Use Sony’s IP

Ratchet and Clank on the PS5 home screen.

The biggest miss of PS VR the first time around was not getting any of PlayStation’s biggest first-party IPs on there. Yes, it did have some first-party studios make exclusive games for it, and a few were actually great, but the vast majority of people out there are way more familiar with the names of Ratchet and Clank, Nathan Drake, Kratos, and even Sackboy than Guerilla Games, London Studios, or Team Asobi. Now that Astro has gotten a chance to shine outside of VR, and as a free experience on every PS5, he could come back to bolster VR, but otherwise Sony needs some iconic characters to sell this hardware.

I don’t just mean some sort of VR “experience,” either, like a Horizon-type game where it’s just five on-rails levels of you playing as Aloy riding a robot dinosaur going down a fancy shooting gallery. Take a page from Valve’s Half Life: Alyx and make some real, full-game experiences for players to sink their teeth into. Those smaller experiences are fun, too, but if there’s nothing substantial to play, most people won’t bother.

People buy PlayStations for the high-quality games we come to expect from its studios. If Sony doesn’t provide that same level of game for PS VR 2, like it didn’t for PS VR, people aren’t going to buy in.

Give it support

Playing poker in VR.

Aside from providing PS VR 2 with prestige first-party titles, Sony needs to keep up support for the system just like it does with the PS5 itself. The early days of the PS VR looked promising in this regard, most notably with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard being fully playable in VR on PS4 and nowhere else. After that, there wasn’t much else besides ports and indie games coming to the system. This led to a cycle where developers didn’t want to spend the resources making a VR game for such a low install base, which in turn kept sales from growing because there were no high-quality games. This loop didn’t end up fully killing PS VR, but certainly crippled its potential.

Sony has great relationships with tons of big publishers and developers outside its own studios. It needs to leverage some deals for exclusive VR experiences. Heck, try and get Half Life: Alyx on there! See if Capcom will port Resident Evil Village. Even getting the rumored Resident Evil 4 VR could move some units. Sony will need to eat a good deal of upfront cost, but we already know that VR can’t succeed on smaller games alone, and until the market is big enough, major studios won’t spend development time and resources for a fraction of the market.

So long as PS VR 2 is compatible with the original PS VR games (which would be a major mistake if it wasn’t), Sony could do some sort of PS Plus Collection equivalent for it. That would be another easy way to make the initial purchase more appealing. If you knew you were getting all the best older PS VR games included, it gets easier to justify that big investment.

Make it work on PC

VR look inside cells.
University of Cambridge

PS5 is currently leading the way for console sales, but Sony has finally come around to the idea of porting its first-party games to the PC. PCs aren’t a competitor, and in the case of VR, they could even be its biggest ally. Right off the bat, you expand your market to sell units to people who either can’t find, or don’t want, a PS5. A lot of gamers have invested in PC gaming and won’t bother with a relatively underpowered console, but would be interested in a lower-priced VR headset. This also helps the support issue: There are way more VR games, or VR-compatible games, on PC that could bolster the PSVR 2’s library the moment it comes out.

And, if we still live in a world where PS5s are a struggle to get your hands on, then people could at least pick up the PS VR 2 beforehand and get those aforementioned first-party games to play via PC.

Go beyond games

A player swinging controllers in Supernatural Fitness VR.

This is thinking further into the future, but when talking about VR, I believe it’s essential. Games should only be the beginning for the tech. Draw people in with games, making it easy to throw on and start playing, but then give them more. Games are bigger than ever, sure, but VR is destined to be used for so much more. Sony needs to pave the way for this, or at least be open to allowing it. We’ve already seen VR spread its wings with other uses, like virtual hangout spaces, theater and concert viewing, exercise, and creative spaces.

This can’t all be on Sony, of course, but it can get the ball rolling in some major ways. Why not do special VR premieres of new Sony Pictures movies? It just purchased the anime streaming service Crunchyroll, so maybe it could make that service VR-friendly. A social space like PlayStation Home from the PS3 days would be a perfect fit for PS VR 2 if built right, and just bringing Dreams as a creative tool to PS5 would inspire tons of artists and designers to strap on a headset and make something.

As for everything else, all Sony has to do is allow people to do what they want with their headsets. If it works with PCs, people are going to find a way to do more with it, after all. As long as they’re not stealing games, data, or anything malicious like that, just let them. I know, Sony isn’t all that fond of letting people mod its work, but the best way for VR to appeal to everyone is to let people do as much as they can with it.

Specs aren’t that important

People playing PSVR on a couch.

We need to remember that, historically, the strongest hardware doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the most successful. There’s plenty of examples in the console space, but even just looking at VR, we see it. The original PS VR, as of 2020, sold 5 million units. While we don’t have solid numbers for most other headsets, it is widely reported that this was by far the bestselling headset at the time, despite being far weaker and tied to the aging PS4.

At the same time, that 5 million is a mere fraction of 100-plus million PS4s sold by that point. The promise of an easy-to-use VR headset, with no expensive or complicated PC to worry about, and a lower price point is what people care about most. Heck, that’s what the console market is. They’re less powerful than a PC could be, but they just work.

From what we know about this new headset, it will again be a decent device in terms of specs, still have one required cable, and feature controllers that will utilize the DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Sony proved it can get a foot in the door with PS VR, but stopped short of actually pushing it open. If it doesn’t follow through with this next attempt, it may be a while before VR as a whole reaches its full potential.

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Jesse Lennox
Jesse Lennox loves writing, games, and complaining about not having time to write and play games. He knows the names of more…
Bringing VR’s best Star Wars game to PlayStation VR2 was a no-brainer, devs say
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When ILMxLAB learned about the PlayStation VR2, Director Jose Perez III thought it was a "no-brainer" for the studio to bring the Oculus Quest game Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge to the new headset.
"We're always looking at how we can push the fidelity of the work that we're doing," Perez III tells Digital Trends in an interview. "PlayStation VR2 is ridiculously powerful; we got really excited about what we could bring to that. We started talking with our friends at Sony because we had a great relationship with them for Vader Immortal, and it was really a no-brainer. Then, you put the headset on, you start feeling the haptics, and you start seeing what you can do with the visual fidelity and lighting, and it's like, 'Oh, this is awesome!'"
Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge - Enhanced Edition | Official Trailer | PS VR2
PlayStation VR2's launch and its first wave of games are nearly upon us, and Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge Enhanced Edition is one of those titles. This is a make-or-break time for VR, which is still struggling to move into the mainstream but could become more popular if Sony's headset can offer a compelling and accessible virtual reality experience. Ahead of its release, Digital Trends spoke to Director Jose Perez III and Producer Harvey Whitney from ILMxLAB to learn about the process of crafting one of these critical "no-brainer" launch games and PlayStation VR2 will ultimately stand when it comes to the future of VR gaming.
The power of PlayStation VR2
Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge was originally released for Meta Quest VR headsets in November 2020. It's set on the planet of Batuu, which people also explore at Dinsey parks, and follows a Droid Technician who gets caught in the middle of a grander fight against the First Order after crash-landing on the planet. At the time, it was meant with decent reviews and only got better as its story was completed and expanded with the Last Call DLC.
After getting the "Enhanced Edition" of the game for PlayStation VR2 greenlit, ILMxLAB actually had to go and make it. As the team was dealing with new hardware for the first time, producer Harvey Whitney thought it was good that the team's first project on PlayStation VR2 was an enhanced version of an existing game.
"Early on, knowing that we already had the content that was created for the original, that changes things quite a bit," Whitney tells Digital Trends. "We're not redeveloping the story and coming up with all of that. We just had that opportunity to work as a team and ask, 'What do we really push here, and where are the changes that we want to make, and what we can do to really take advantage of this hardware?'"

The VR space is full of different headsets with unique specs, with the much higher specs of the PS VR2 standing out. The PlayStation VR2 sports some impressive specs compared to its VR peers, displaying content in a 4000x2030 HDR format at a 90Hz or 120Hz frame rate. Plus, games have the PS5's power, spatial, and brand new Sense controllers to take advantage of, rather than the 2013 console and 2010 motion controls that limited the original PlayStation VR.
PlayStation VR2 supports Roomscale, Sitting, and Standing play styles, which added more complexity as Tales from the Galaxy's Edge supports all three. Thankfully, Perez III that bringing Tales from the Galaxy's Edge to PlayStation VR2 was relatively manageable because of how impressive the system's specs were.
"A lot of the development processes are similar [to other VR platforms]," Perez III says. "We're still working inside of Unreal, and we're doing a lot of those same processes. But we don't have to look at performance quite as much as we do on some of the other devices, so we're able to open up a lot of things or not be as concerned about certain things. That comes with better hardware."
Better hardware, better games
Looking at the biggest games of the PlayStation VR2 launch window lineup, the visuals of titles like Horizon Call of the Mountain and the VR modes of Resident Evil Village and Gran Turismo 7 are impressive. In our discussion, Whitney also made it quite clear that one of the real advantages of working on this remaster was not having to worry about strict limitations on the visuals or even the audio. "We got lucky in the sense that there's a lot more to PlayStation VR2 that we hadn't had previously," Whitney says. "We could really push the graphics and make it shine. But then there were also some other things that came into play. We totally redid the audio, it sounds amazing."

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Over 100 PlayStation VR2 games are in development, Sony says
Playstation VR2 headset on a PlayStation-themed wallpaper.

Sony has released a massive FAQ about the PlayStation VR2 on the PlayStation Blog ahead of the headset's February 22 launch. It reveals some key new details about games for the platform, namely that over 100 PS VR2 titles are in development, and that Sony doesn't plan on giving its games physical releases for now. 
For the most part, the FAQ is full of basic information about the PlayStation VR2's specs, how to set it up, and what's required to use it. But the Games section of this FAQ reveals quite a few illuminating details about the future of the system. It reiterates that there will be around 30 launch titles for the system, but also reveals just how much is in the works for the headset. In response to the question, "How many games are in development for PS VR 2?" Sony writes, "There are currently more than 100 titles in development for PS VR2."

That's a good sign, as a new, expensive VR headset like this lives or dies on its game lineup. PSVR2's early days might be a bit odd as Horizon Call of the Mountain is one of its only true exclusives -- and it's not backward compatible with PlayStation VR titles (something this FAQ reiterates. However, those picking one up can still know that lots of games are in the works for it.
Another FAQ question asks, "Will PS VR2 games be digital only or will there be physical disc releases?" -- which is sensible to clarify as this headset's predecessor had physical games. "Initially at launch, PS VR2 games will be digital," Sony says. "Physical disc releases for select titles may be available at a future date." So don't hold on to the idea of picking up a physical copy of Horizon Call of the Mountain; you'll be getting PS VR2 games through the PlayStation Store for the time being.
Check out the full FAQ if you have any technical questions about PS VR2's setup and which games it supports. PlayStation VR will be released on February 22. 

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CES 2023: Gran Turismo 7 is coming to PS VR2 as a launch game
A driver holds a wheel in a car in Gran Turismo 7 VR.

Gran Turismo was the most dominant PlayStation franchise at CES 2023, appearing twice during Sony's January 4 press conference. We not only got a first look at the upcoming Gran Turismo movie, but learned that Gran Turismo 7 will get PlayStation VR2 support as well. 
During the press conference, Sony confirmed that more than 30 games will be available for PlayStation VR2 at launch, including Horizon Call of the Mountain, No Man's Sky, and Resident Evil Village. In addition to a Beat Saber port, Sony also announced that Gran Turismo 7 will get a free update to add PlayStation VR2 support when the headset launches on February 22. We also saw some gameplay footage of Gran Turismo 7 for PlayStation VR2, which showed an impressive amount of detail as a player drove from a first-person perspective.
CES® 2023 Press Conference|Sony Official
While video game and VR fans will love that announcement, that wasn't even the series' first appearance at the show. Series creator and producer Kazunori Yamauchi appeared earlier to introduce the series, highlight the GT Sophy racing AI, and tease the Gran Turismo movie. We then learned more about the film as Sony Picture's Sanford Panitch, PlayStation Productions' Asad Qizilbash, and movie Director Neill Blomkamp took the stage. 
They discussed PlayStation's growing efforts in the entertainment industry and how the Gran Turismo movie will follow the story of a gamer who goes from playing Gran Turismo in his parent's basement to a professional racer. The film just finished shooting, and Blomkamp took time to explain how the Sony Venice 2 camera's detachable sensor allowed them to get unusual Imax resolution shots. We then got a first look at the film in a sneak peek video:
GRAN TURISMO – Exclusive Sneak Peek
While the movie's appearance alone would have been a strong showing for this franchise, Gran Turismo reemerged during the PlayStation VR2 segment of the press conference. If you're a Gran Turismo fan, CES 2023 was certainly a treat for you! Gran Turismo 7 gets PlayStation VR2 support on February 22, while the Gran Turismo movie will hit movie theaters this August. 

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