On 15th March at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, Sony announced that the Playstation VR (PS VR) would be released October 2016 with a price tag of £349.99.
In that package you will receive the VR headset, a connection cable for the headset, headphones, a processor unit, an HDMI and USB cable as well as the power supply. The package will also include a demo disc that will feature demos of several games in the launch line-up. Additionally, all Playstation VR owners will be able to download The Playroom VR which includes six mini-games that showcase VR and allow several players to interact at once via the headset and television. It is important to note at this stage that the Playstation VR also requires the Playstation Camera to operate, this is sold separately, though some users may already have one. All PS VR games can be played with the Dualshock 4 apparently but Move controllers can vary and accentuate the experience. These are also sold separately. A bundle including the PS VR, Playstation Camera and two Move controllers has been revealed in the USA but so far there hasn’t been a similar announcement for the UK.
The 1992 film The Lawnmower Man first got me excited for virtual reality with its FPS and flying sequences. As an 8-year old I’d never seen anything like it and the concept of a game filling your senses, of stepping into another world really sparked my imagination.
Over the years VR never made its way into the home and I began to think it was just a sci-fi gimmick. As videogame technology became more advanced and we saw the likes of the Wii with its very interactive setup, VR stared to fade away for me. The recent console generation graphics were so fantastic that my memories of VR concepts (such as in The Lawnmower Man) looked archaic and clunky in comparison. It felt like the world had well and truly moved on from what was very much an 80’s vision of gaming in the future. That was until I tried an Oculus Rift.
I’d heard a lot about the Oculus back in 2014 but didn’t see it as anything I would ever invest in as it was targeted at PC gamers. I happened to be at an open day when I spotted an Oculus on a stand. No one appeared to be approaching the guy at the desk as there were wires everywhere and I guess it wasn’t blatantly obvious what was being advertised. I tried out the demo on offer which was set up with an Xbox 360 controller. I found the headset very bulky and heavy but the experience blew my mind. The demo I tried was a rendering of a cruise ship. Using the controller you could wander the decks whilst looking out to sea with the freedom of head movement made possible by the headset. The graphics were extremely crude but for my first VR experience it was incredible. I remember being quite freaked out when I looked down at the controller only to see that I didn’t have any hands or even a body in the virtual world. Quite an unsettling experience but one we will grow accustomed to I hope. Everything was going great until I hopped into the Helicopter. This was at the end of the demo and with good reason. The Helicopter flew itself which allowed you to view the ship from any angle the headset would allow, but straight away I felt motion sickness and when the copter banked sharply I had to take the headset off or else risk the embarrassment of falling over!
This glimpse into the world of VR began to fill my head with ideas and dreams of what it could mean to mainstream gaming. I love games but as with all gamers I think I’m always looking for the next big thing to immerse me and impress me like never before. As soon as I heard that Sony was developing a headset I knew I had to have it. I’m quite a tech junkie, so even aside from gaming I would be interested in a headset, just for tech demos and experiences such as the Netflix viewer and virtual room tours. The fact that Sony are releasing a headset at what is an affordable price (next to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive when a powerful enough PC is added to the mix) that you can use with your television and PlayStation 4 straight out of the box for games as well as other VR experiences, is not only exciting to me but I think has the potential to catapult VR into everyday life.
Admittedly, the PlayStation VR isn’t perfect. The current offering doesn’t have any killer apps as yet but I will be happy to tinker with what is available at launch and make the most of the tech demos and free games until the first truly unique experience comes along. The really exciting part is not only what’s to come, but what is possible with this new technology. I’ll be covering the experiences I would most like to see on PlayStation VR in a future post but for now check out this video showcasing PlayStation VR and let me know your thoughts and experiences of VR in the comments below.