Will PSVR2 lure the casual gamer to virtual reality?

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According to outlets like IGN and The Verge, there was an early hands-on PlayStation VR2 press event last week. As far as I know, none of us video game pariahs were invited to TBEN, but that doesn’t stop us from judging from afar like the dirty, dejected cave trolls that we are.

The hardware looks good, but predictable? Quite similar to the original PSVR in terms of fit and design, although enhanced with new eye-tracking technology, better quality 4K HDR OLED displays for each learner (2000×2040 at 120Hz, to be exact), as well as improved capacitive and haptic feedback wireless controllers that technically match what happens in the excellent PS5 DualSense. Also looks very comfortable, a welcome relic of the old headset.

Plus, there’s no need for an external PlayStation camera this time around, as the main gear has four built-in lenses that do all the tracking. Also no bulky external processing box. Now only one USB-C connection. What a relief! My biggest complaint with the original hardware was all the mess it took to install. It has seriously exhausted my motivation to even use the damn thing.

The IGN piece mentions a total lack of the often lamented “screen door effect,” an annoying visual grittiness that was present in many groundbreaking virtual reality headsets, including PlayStation’s own 2016 predecessor. Apparently PSVR2 has an advancement known as foveated rendering, where the device “uses its built-in eye-tracking to boost the resolution of whatever you’re watching,” according to the IGN article.

Interestingly, PSVR2 additionally features haptic feedback onboard the headset itself, which may be a first for VR wearables, if I’m not mistaken. I’d imagine this would be a great asset to certain games, as long as developers take full advantage of the rumble capability, so we’ll see where that goes.

The biggest flaw I took from the hands-on event is that, unlike the Meta Quest 2, say, PSVR2 still needs to be tethered to a PS5 console. I suppose the advantage here is that PlayStation virtual reality games can harness the power of local hardware, producing more impressive visuals. The downside, of course, is that in VR you’re constantly attached to your $500 Sony box, like a toddler on a leash to an exhausted mom.

The Meta Quest 2 has seriously spoiled me in this regard. Of course, the graphics capabilities can’t match the images you see on the PC headsets from HTC and Valve, but the freedom of movement is sublime and makes certain room-scale experiences more possible in virtual reality.

But hey, if Sony can deliver uniquely engaging creative experiences, I’ve no doubt that I mind. Speaking of which, the promising first-party spin-off Horizon Call of the Mountain appears to be positioned as the marquee launch title, when that launch actually takes place, reportedly sometime in early 2023. A new version of Resident Evil Village is also planned for PSVR2, but not much else at the moment.

And that brings us to the seemingly ever-present problem with virtual reality platforms: lack of incredible games. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played a lot of the notable titles through headsets, but nothing that will convince the everyday gamer to abandon flat screen gaming. Most of it still feels like a superficial novelty – fun for a short while and then back to traditional gaming.

However, I’ve always thought that PlayStation, of all VR vendors, has offered the best value for money in terms of software. You know, selling titles that you would… actually want to play.

Maybe if Sony invests serious money into virtual reality development, we can see PSVR2 take off, but I’m not holding my breath. I honestly think a PSVR2 reboot of Playstation Home could potentially do it, especially with the digital trinkets you’ll soon be able to earn through PlayStation Stars, though that seems like a longshot.

The stuff on display at this recent hands-on event is looking really good Okay, and Sony will need more than okay to convince mainstream gamers to throw out an estimated $500 to participate, which is in addition to the $500 PS5 console needed to even use the headset. That’s one advantage Meta Quest 2 still has: Even for $400, no additional hardware is needed.

With Meta’s pricey Quest Pro looming on the horizon, PSVR2 will face stiff competition in the virtual reality space, even if both devices aren’t aimed at casuals at all. Between mediocre software choices and prohibitive costs, most VR still seems a long way from winning over the average consumer, at least in my estimation.

That said, I’m actually quite excited about this new generation of devices and can’t wait to test out the latest headsets when they finally arrive. Whether there is anything worth playing or experiencing remains to be seen.