Is it possible to succeed?
When one considers the number of console peripherals dating back to the Nintendo Power Glove, it’s easy to see a pattern of failures. Whether the tragic failure of the Power Glove, the embarrassment of the PlayStation Move, or the mess of the Microsoft Kinect (and believe me, there are plenty more), the average gamer knows that these devices failed not necessarily because they were garbage but because they each had little support (although some were certainly trash).
As we continue to advance in technology, we continue to see cool ideas come and go. Why did the Nintendo Wii succeed? The answer: Nintendo forced gamers to use the Wii-motes. Why did the Nintendo Wii-U tablet controller fail? It was unnecessary and bulky and hardly utilized (outside of being a nice way to implement a mini-map). Now, we’re ushered into the age of successful virtual reality. With the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation, each successful in their own right (and the VR surpassing my expectations), the new question posed is whether that success can be maintained.
Already, virtual reality on PC has stalled. After an initial rush of developers and consumers, the output of VR ready games on PC has faltered. On PC, of course, virtual reality can be rather limited based on your rig specs. Understanding this – and, perhaps, accepting it as a possible route to failure – I want to shift the focus onto the PlayStation VR. Because each PSVR is designed for the same PlayStation 4 architecture (whether you have a PS4 or PS4 Pro doesn’t alter the overall gameplay to any significance), every PSVR game is guaranteed to run successfully at 90fps and 1080p on every PS4/Pro console. What this means is that each PSVR consumer can choose any PSVR game to purchase without worrying about whether it will play.
Knowing this, and understanding that the PSVR has been a critical and commercial success to date, I have to question whether it has lasting power. If you’ve read my love letter to the PSVR, then you understand how impressed I am with the capabilities and potential of virtual reality, and I’m ecstatic about Sony’s headset. And having gobbled up every game that interested me so far (with the exception of not being able to get a hold of E.V.E. or Robinson yet), I have to wait for Resident Evil 7 to further sate my virtual reality appetite.
Here’s why I foresee this as a problem: when waiting for a PlayStation 4 (or any console) title to release, I can patiently chip away at my backlog of games. The wait for Final Fantasy XV, for example, wasn’t impossible because I was able to play myriad RPGs and games during that 10 year void. The PlayStation VR, however, does not have that backlog luxury. Granted, Sony has promised 70+ VR games during the VR launch window – and many of those exist and are successful. Unfortunately, as is the case with me, of those 70+ games, only a set number will pique the interest of each consumer, leaving each consumer with a limited set of VR-ready games to play.
Even that concept isn’t a negative in itself (this idea exists on every console ever). The problem comes in when you have a $400+ piece of equipment gathering dust while waiting for that next game. For me, Resident Evil 7 was worth it alone (the demos have confirmed that thought, and the other games I’ve had the pleasure of playing continue to support my purchase); but those with limited finances or on the fence about purchasing an untested unit, the situation is scary. Sony dropped the ball with the PlayStation Vita – an awesome handheld device that is, actually, pretty powerful. Without Sony’s support, however, the Vita died a quick death (though its ghost still lingers with support from JRPGs). As a consumer, Sony hasn’t convinced me that they will support their own peripherals. Just look at the PlayStation Move and the three games that support it. For $400, the PlayStation VR is a big, expensive question mark.
Obviously, the question is still open. Sony has done a commendable job in supporting the VR to date, and its sales numbers would lead me to believe that the VR could live a longer life than the Vita (which, I suppose, isn’t saying much). Thankfully, a juggernaut like Capcom has dedicated a title like Resident Evil to have full VR support when they easily could have waited to see if the peripheral was successful. Hopefully, the VR continues to find success and more developers decide to take the risk and create virtual reality content. The future is still bright for the PlayStation VR. As a gamer, I hope that it can break the trend of peripherals of consoles past. As a journalist, the verdict is still out on its overall success.