Consumer virtual reality has a clear new leader today, and it’s the just-launched PlayStation VR. Unequivocally, this is the best VR experience currently available outside of the kinds of high-flying, super-secret test rigs that exist out there for army training or whatever that cost millions of dollars. That includes top-of-line hardware like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, as well as smartphone standouts like Samsung Gear VR.
I own the HTC Vive, and I’m not abandoning it by any means. I also have and use Gear VR, and I’m excited to explore Daydream VR further, after getting a small taste of it at Google’s Pixel launch event. And if you’re looking for an assessment of which VR hardware you, personally, should buy, Lucas has that covered with his roundup. But despite all of that, it’s clear to me that PlayStation VR is the new gold standard when it comes to consumer VR, and could go a long way to proving that the technology is accessible and viable for everyday users.
Is PSVR perfect? Not at all — the visual fidelity and room-scale VR are both better on my HTC Vive. Plus, it doesn’t have the wireless freedom you get from Gear VR. I’ve even noticed some tracking issues where the PlayStation camera seems to lose sight of the headset temporarily, leading to disorienting jitters in the immersive experience.
But what PlayStation VR offers is simplicity — from setup, to calibration, to actual use, the experience is very similar to what you’ve experienced before setting up any new console. It’s definitely due partly to having gone through the process of setting up much more complicated systems, including Vive, but unboxing and using PSVR consistently results in a “that’s it?” response from my brain, which is tuned to expect more hassle leading up to the actual VR stuff itself.
Simplicity alone isn’t enough, however, and the PSVR manages the right balance between simple and powerful, giving an end-user experience that’s as likely to wow the average person as is a high-end Vive or SteamVR game, but without the high-end technical requirements or comfort level with tech.
The other reason PlayStation VR wins is because of game selection. At launch, the game library is impressive already, and the best part of it is that all the experiences deserve to be there. Not all of them are necessarily amazing, but all the ones I’ve tried have impacted my overall opinion of VR for the better. That’s definitely not true of everything I’ve tried on the Vive, or on Gear VR.
If PSVR has a significant remaining issue, it’s that it’s still too expensive; despite not reaching the stratospheric pricing of Vive or Oculus, especially when you factor in the cost of the PC, PlayStation VR’s price tag is likely too high to attract much of a crowd beyond the core gamer group. But it’ll live in households where it’s much more likely to be exposed to a range of different kinds of users, which is exactly what VR needs right now.