PSVR isn’t just an expensive peripheral. In fact, it’s a relatively cheap and brilliant new way to experience games;
When Sony announced the price and release month of PSVR at GDC 2016 last week, it was met with a mostly positive reaction. So positive in fact, that the first wave of pre-orders sold out within 10 minutes. Of course, the asking price of PlayStations VR offering didn’t sway the opinion of all gamers.
“An expensive peripheral”. “Costs more than the console”. “Doomed to fail like the PSMove”. I’ve read through hundreds of tweets all suggesting the same thing – that PSVR is nothing more than an overpriced peripheral.
Now, I won’t argue about your perceived value of PSVR and how much it costs because that’s entirely subjective and personal to you. If you earn the GDP of Monaco on a daily basis, £350 (minimum to $800 for the whole set-up) is a drop in the ocean. At the other end of the spectrum, if £350 is a yearly shopping budget, PSVR looks entirely too expensive. It’s not my place to tell you if you can afford a PSVR and whether it should be considered cheap or expensive.
What I would argue, however, is that PSVR (and Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive for that matter) isn’t actually a “peripheral” at all, at least not in the traditional sense. In my opinion, it’s actually much more than that.
Since gaming began, we’ve had thousands of peripherals released to enhance our gaming experience. The Time Crisis Light Gun. The GameBoy Printer. The Dance Dance Revolution dance mat. The Donkey Kong Bongo drums. PlayStation Move. Kinect. A plethora of racing wheels. Guitar hero and Rock band kits. Hell, SEGA even turned a urinal into a gaming peripheral.
All of these additional pieces of hardware have enabled us to control games in imaginative and engrossing new ways – but that’s where there immersion stops. They only allow us to change the way we control games, how we interact with them, not how we experience them.
VR is different. PSVR doesn’t just change the way we control our games (but that is still part and parcel of it). It changes the way we see them and the way we experience them. Instead of swapping a control pad for a motion controller, we swap the TV/Monitor for a Head Mounted Display and headphones. We swap sitting on a couch in the lounge for sitting in a cockpit of an anti-grav racer. We swap playing games to being immersed in them.
I know, I sound like I just escaped from an asylum but VR has this potential. Before travelling to Gamescom 2014, I was a sceptic. If you have told me that the then named Project Morpheus was going to cost £350 plus the price of PSMove controllers and a camera, I would have scoffed alongside the merry band of detractors on Twitter. During my trip to Germany, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with PSVR and was blown away. EVE Valkyrie blew my mind and The Deep (which is now part of VR Worlds) nearly gave me a heart attack. (Extra Reading: VR sceptic to convert in 3 tech demos). The again, a few months later at EGX Rezzed 2015, I got my head and hands on several more VR games, the pinnacle of which was Radial-G (which is confirmed for PSVR). Slipping on the Oculus headset, I was transported from the bustling convention floor, packed with hundreds of gamers to the starting grid of a sci-fi ship race. It was total immersion with my hands, eyes and ears convinced I was about to hurtle through an anti-grav race course at breakneck speed. Which I did. And I was blown away.
To label PSVR as a peripheral does it a disservice. It’s not an additional piece of hardware that enables you shoot the nameless bad guys on your TV in a new way or to prance about pressing arrows on the floor to the beat of music. It’s an entire new platform full of exciting experiences and an entire new gaming rule book. Comparing PSVR to Kinect ignores all of the extra immersion that this platform can bring. Sure, compare the price of PSVR with the price of the PSMove, the Tactile Gaming Vest or the Raildriver Train Cab Controller if you wish – but none of these peripherals come close to what PSVR can do. For an entire new gaming platform, £350 is a bargain. Hell, even £800 for the entire set-up from scratch is worth it.