PlayStation VR: Why Sony Should Take A Stand Now And Risk A Price Around $350
PlayStation VR is the last to be priced, dated and launched among virtual reality headsets. HTC Vive will ship across all the continents in April for the price of $899 and Oculus Rift has already released, priced at $599 (plus taxes and shipment), so it seems just a matter of days for Sony to announce all the official details about its VR solution for home consoles. We even have some clues about when this is going to happen. The PlayStation team has already sent out a limited rush of invites for a private event to be held at Game Developer Conference, which is taking place at San Francisco, on March 15.
"This invite-only event begins with a PlayStation VR presentation at 2:00 PM PT followed by hands-on demos until 6:00 PM PT", the invite says, precising that doors will open one hour earlier. "Space is limited so please let us know right away if you are able to attend".
What we expect to come from this event, since Sony is still talking about a release date fixed at the first half of 2016, is the exact day we'll be able to buy PlayStation VR and at what price. Looking at the recent statements we hear from Sony, it doesn't seem like we'll have bad surprises when it will come to the PlayStation VR price.
"If you just talk about the high-end quality, yes, I would admit that Oculus may have better VR," Sony Computer Entertainment vice president Masayasu Ito said in an interview with Polygon. "However, it requires a very expensive and very fast PC. The biggest advantage for Sony is our headset works with PS4. It's more for everyday use, so it has to be easy to use and it has to be affordable. This is not for the person who uses a high-end PC. It's for the mass market."
What does this mean?
Well, we won't read too much into this, since we have already been disappointed once and twice by VR headsets' prices, but it looks pretty clear Sony is trying and delivering a message. Oculus Rift is so expensive because it is a high quality, high end PC-oriented device; HTC Vive appears to be a business solution rather than a 'simple' entertainment piece of electronics.
PlayStation VR is going to be something you'll be using in your living room, together with a PlayStation 4 console, so it is a "mass market" device. And the first thing defining a mass market product is pricing, that needs to make it accessible for a good number of users at launch. One way or another, we don't think Sony will have many problems in making PlayStation VR a good investment in relation to what they've spent so far in research and engineering. They probably made some money even from PS Move, as Microsoft had a return in launching Kinect (both the first and the second). It's not a matter of revenues and incomes; we're not business men, we're gamers.
What we care about is the setup of a new standard. Sony and PlayStation are two brands strong enough to set new standards (they've already done that with CD-ROM and Blu-ray), but it will truly depend on how much it will cost and how good the games shipping together with it will be. So there are chances virtual reality exits the bedroom but really needs them, needs the Japanese platform holder to make everything it can in order to get a successful business (for everyone) out of VR.
In our opinion, Sony should take a stand now and risk a price around $350. It would be just a slight risk, since PlayStation 4 userbase is so large they'll be pretty easily getting back what they might lose (or gain less than expected at first) on each device sold.
That would be the best case possible, of course. Realistically, based on the latest statements coming from Sony, it seems there's going to be a difference in comparison with Oculus Rift, but it doesn't look quite as large as it looks at first. We would bet on a $100-150 difference in favor of PlayStation VR, so something slightly more expensive than $400 (around $429) seems pretty likely as of now.
For what matters the release date, we don't believe the recent rumors stating that Sony will launch the device directly next week. Sudden launches have never proved being a positive thing for platform holders, and such an organized and careful to details company as Sony doesn't seem likely to make similar mistakes. Our idea is PlayStation VR won't release before late spring - May is our guess.
At this point we can't do much but speculate on what's happening lately, by the way it is also interesting to read what you think about what we said and what Sony should act like when it comes to deciding both the price and launch date of PS VR.