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Opinion Sony's VR commitment must be about software, not hardware; will Sony's interest go far enough for them to commit its most treasured IPs to the medium?

VysePSU

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Sony's announcement that it's working on a VR headset for the PlayStation 5 -- however far off that new device may be -- gives a definitive answer to the question of whether its interest in the emerging space would outlive the original PSVR.

As Christopher Dring pointed out in his column earlier this week, that was absolutely an open question. PSVR's installed base is only about one-twentieth of the PS4's reach, and VR seems to have slipped well down the priority list in terms of both Sony's marketing and communications, and its software strategy. Selling five to six million headsets isn't anything to sniff at, of course, and many companies in the VR space would kill for those kinds of numbers -- but it's such a small fraction of the PlayStation business that it was far from impossible that Sony would write it off as a worthy but ultimately unsuccessful experiment and move on.

Perhaps that's why the responses to news that it's actively developing a PS5 headset all seem tinged with a sense of relief. For all the strides that have been made in the quality of the VR experience and the innovations coming from dedicated VR developers, there's no doubt that the sector is going through a rough patch at the moment. The initial gleam of novelty has worn off and the broad consumer appeal hasn't bedded in just yet, which is cooling the ardor of some publishers and investors. If Sony, the company behind the most successful consumer VR headset, were to bow out of the sector at this point, that cooled ardor might turn into outright cold feet -- finding investment for VR games could suddenly get very, very tough indeed.

It's great that PSVR2 will exist, then -- and even better that it'll only require one cable, hopefully the USB-C port on the front of the console, making it a dramatically better headset than the original even before any other improvements are considered. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though; it's very easy to overstate the degree of commitment represented by releasing this device.

Certainly, releasing any hardware product requires some degree of confidence and commitment, especially if you're going to slap a valuable brand like PlayStation on the box. But the simple existence of PSVR2 doesn't necessarily mean that Sony expects it to perform much better than the previous headset, or that it's any more willing to back it up with high-profile software than before.

The original PSVR effectively stands as a proof of concept, the concept being that if you launch a VR headset for the PlayStation, around 5% of your users will probably buy one. That means you get to sell several million of them, which is a decent little side business, and Sony has never been averse to a decent little side business. Bear in mind that we're discussing a company that spent many years flogging $2000 robot dogs, and once made a wireless speaker whose unique selling point was that it rolled around the floor as it played music. It recently launched an entire smartphone designed around the concept of being an excellent viewfinder for video cameras, a niche product with an addressable market that surely measures in the hundreds at best.

At heart, Sony remains a hardware company -- the hardware company. If you point it at a market niche that's pretty much a guaranteed multi-million seller for a device, then hell, there are probably teams there who can design a world-beating VR headset in their sleep with one arm tied behind their back.

I'm not saying that's what's happening here -- at least not for certain. Of course it's not just about flogging a few million new headsets. There will also be a calculation here about the degree of prestige and differentiation that VR support gives to PS5 at the high end, plus a general sense that the company ought to have a dog in the VR fight in case we do suddenly hit a moment where the sector goes stratospheric. However, the mere announcement of a new headset equally does not mean that there's been some Damascene conversion to the wonders of VR within SIE.

Bear in mind, after all, that the company has launched camera peripherals for every console since the early success of EyeToy, which shifted quite a lot more units than PSVR. I'm not even sure what the PS5 camera is actually for at this juncture, but it exists, because manufacturing a PS5 camera peripheral is a piece of cake for Sony and it knows it'll sell enough of them to be worthwhile.


Sony will make a new VR headset, but will major IPs like Horizon make an appearance?

The point of this isn't to dump on the PSVR2 announcement, but rather to point out that a much bigger commitment -- a commitment that would be vastly more meaningful to the VR sector as a whole -- would be for Sony to throw some of its first-party software muscle behind VR. During the PS4 era, the company was warmly supportive of other creators making games for PSVR, especially indies, but the company's own development efforts were conspicuous in their avoidance of any of the firm's more valuable IP.

Capcom's Resident Evil 7 remains the biggest AAA game to fully support PSVR, and that was pretty early in the lifecycle. Arguably the only real AAA-scale game Sony directly published for PSVR was Iron Man VR at the other end of the device's lifespan. None of the firm's own headline IPs have made a PSVR appearance.

This is especially significant because, if the past year has taught us anything about what the VR market needs to move forward, it's that IP matters a hell of a lot -- perhaps even more so than it does for a traditional gaming platform like a console. Making the leap into VR is a big commitment for a consumer, not just financially but psychologically. Convincing people to put on a dorky helmet -- no amount of lifestyle photography of hip young things in Marie Kondo approved apartments is ever going to make the headsets look anything less than dorky -- to play a game demands a pretty serious hook. In games, that hook tends to be IP-related.

Look at the really impactful, meaningful games that moved the needle for VR in 2020, a year when the "cut yourself off from the real world and go play somewhere else" pitch was way more attractive than usual -- a Half-Life game, a Star Wars game, a Marvel game. Innovation and new IP is important of course, but the reality is that you're not going to get people interested in buying and wearing headsets without a touchstone of familiarity. Boneworks may be a better VR game than Iron Man in almost every conceivable way, but I know which one of them will have shifted more headsets.

If Sony really is as committed to VR as a core part of its platform as we'd all like to believe, that commitment is going to have to be reflected in software, not just hardware. For PSVR2 to be more than just another side note in the PlayStation ecosystem, and for Sony to make a truly meaningful contribution to the development of the VR sector overall, the movement has to come from its approach to development and willingness to dip into its treasure chest of IP.

A real commitment here would see VR being considered, if not as a play mode for the full game -- as in Resident Evil 7 -- then at least as a side dish for the major titles in Sony's line-up. Swinging through New York, battling robot dinosaurs, creeping around Clickers in the post-apocalypse; there's at least some aspect of each major title in Sony's arsenal that seems like a dream fit for VR, if only the budget, the time and the commitment were there to make it a reality.

This is, of course, a big ask. There will be games that just don't suit VR at all, no doubt, not to mention the risk of VR features being strapped on as an unloved afterthought just because they're required by internal rules, and not something to which developers actually want to devote time and effort. But if the company's commitment to VR really does extend this far, it would be an unalloyed positive thing for the medium and the industry as a whole.

Sony is arguably the only company on the planet that's actually positioned to push VR forward in such a significant way -- by making it not just a key part of the PlayStation strategy, but a key part of the PlayStation consumer experience. It's probably a pipe dream, but if the company is really serious about VR forming a core part of its offering in the future, starting to lay the groundwork for a shift in its software and IP policy would be a step in that direction that's even more meaningful than the PSVR2 headset itself.

 

Men_in_Boxes

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You can have new IPs while also seeing some established PlayStation IPs for PSVR 2.

True, but my comment was in reference to your title.

Sonys IPs are garbage, save for maybe Horizon because that franchise hasn't been beaten into the ground yet.
 
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Wonko_C

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At the very least, they should let us play all games in stereoscopic 3D. That alone adds something to every game. Can't imagine it would take much work to patch it in a ton of games.
I would be happy with this, stereo 3D but with real scale, kind of like Hellblade VR, but it's not that simple. The framerate must be kept very high at all times (at least 90, though PSVR gets away with 60fps minimum), and the image must be rendered twice (one for each eye).

This is even harder if the flat game runs at 30fps. Driveclub VR sacrificed so much detail and resolution compared to the flat version.
 

VysePSU

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True, but my comment was in reference to your title.

Sonys IPs are garbage, save for maybe Horizon because that franchise hasn't been beaten into the ground yet.
My comment is in reference to the article.

Just like with any platform, to really commit to PSVR 2 means we will see both third-party IPs and first-party IPs.

Sony did publish a new IP "Blood & Truth" for PSVR. No one talks about it though. Maybe it's time to see some more familiar PlayStation IPs?
 
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Men_in_Boxes

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My comment is in reference to the article.

Just like with any platform, to really commit to PSVR 2 means we will see both third-party IPs and first-party IPs.

Sony did publish a new IP "Blood & Truth" for PSVR. No one talks about it though. Maybe it's time to see some more familiar PlayStation IPs?

No one talks about bad games.

I get the commercial benefit of regurgitating the same IP over and over but as gamers...who wants that?
 
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I mean, no games have been announced yet, but -

Restructuring of Japan Studio means ASOBI, who made the superb Astro Bot Rescue Mission, is being expanded to build on the franchise.

Sony are working with Firesprite (the remnants of Sony Liverpool studio) to bring a multi-million selling first party PlayStation IP to VR.

They bought Insomniac, who have a lot of experience with PlayStation and VR. Hmm..

There’s already signs of massive potential here.
 
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AV

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They bought Insomniac, who have a lot of experience with PlayStation and VR. Hmm..

I completely expect a web swinging VR experience at some point which will make some people puke.
 

turtlepowa

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Personally i think VR exclusives hurt the future of VR. They should work together until VR hardware base is much higher and not make such shitty deals like with Resident Evil 7.
 
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Frankly i am not sure what the OP's link is talking about; Sony knows from the beginning that the profits was always the software, they sold consoles after all. So to imply that they didn't think software is important is silly, you are better off telling that to Microsoft instead.
 
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Arkam

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I think we will see more of the big IPs used in VR this gen.

In fact I am going to call my shot. They will use Ghost of Tsushima as a built in VR demo. Will feature Tameshigiri (cutting tests) to show that the new “move” controllers tracking is detailed enough for blade edge alignment.
 

namekuseijin

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Who gives a shit about retread IPs?

VR is about new experiences.
a minigames fan. or shill.

VR is not a genre of gaming, it's another media to play games in - an evolution of display and controls so far.

it needs lots of big and renowned games running on it and enhanced by superior spatial controls - or not, as in mere cockpit games.

just indies and unknown titles won't move VR outside its current niche sphere for low effort indies for easily amused casual gamers and fitness nuts...

all games are automatically better in VR, even with no enhancement other than putting you there in scale

I hope Dreams has taught Sony a lesson or two about how to handle third person games in VR gracefully.
 
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namekuseijin

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Frankly i am not sure what the OP's link is talking about; Sony knows from the beginning that the profits was always the software, they sold consoles after all. So to imply that they didn't think software is important is silly, you are better off telling that to Microsoft instead.

yeah, I mean: while pcvr from 2016 to today gets some 2 new VR headsets every year, they're bogus new iterations mostly playing the same few worthwhile indie and big games brought to VR to sell psvr, that is incredibly old by VR fast-moving standards, but focused on building a great library
 

namekuseijin

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Personally i think VR exclusives hurt the future of VR. They should work together until VR hardware base is much higher and not make such shitty deals like with Resident Evil 7.

Skyrim, Borderlands, Battlezone, Psychonauts, Rez, Dirt Rally and others were all ported to VR to help sell psvr and later also ported to pcvr.

there's far more sharing than exclusive deals
 
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namekuseijin

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At the very least, they should let us play all games in stereoscopic 3D. That alone adds something to every game. Can't imagine it would take much work to patch it in a ton of games.

that's the hardest part for VR actually. Big AAA games need to push a lot of good looking polygons and pixels to sell to graphics whores and sell 4K TVs.

requiring a frame for each eye and very smooth framerates (as opposed to the usual cinematic 30fps), something has to go. And graphics whores won't be happy.

that's why they usually try new games made for VR rather than straight ports - because the games that will run well are graphically simpler, like indies or older games from past generations

since I realized this with Skyrim and Borderlands, I've stopped playing AAA this generation with hopes that we're seeing a lot more ports like this on psvr2. We'll see if this is the case or we're back to indieland minigames...

I for one could live off playing just the likes of Killzone 2 or Resistance in VR. or RDR1.
 

namekuseijin

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I completely expect a web swinging VR experience at some point which will make some people puke.

there's already such web swinging experience in Spiderman Far from Home. And it's quite exhilarating.

but mini experiences won't do anymore. I'd gladly play Spiderman in VR as is, in TP mode - as those fights are made for button-mashing. But the option to web sling in FP would be awesome.
 

namekuseijin

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Let's hope VR never takes off. What devs need is hardware stagnation so development costs can begin to decrease

psvr is stagnant for 4+ years and VR hasn't taken off so far

your idea doesn't seem to be working
 

Three

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Sony should create new IPs for VR.

The question is will Sony commit the same budget they spend on their AAA games with VR?

It's not about the IP. It's the talent, commitment, and budget.
Frankly i would be happy if their current AAA IPs got full VR support. That way you have a shared budget but good VR games.

GT7 fully playable in VR please.
 

Romulus

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Let's hope VR never takes off. What devs need is hardware stagnation so development costs can begin to decrease

Well 2020 was not a good year for hoping VR would fail. Quest 2 is the closest I've ever seen VR get to breaking into the mainstream and it's still selling well.


But VR devs are usually go into development to work in VR games. Or they are an outright VR studio.
 
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VysePSU

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No one talks about bad games.

I get the commercial benefit of regurgitating the same IP over and over but as gamers...who wants that?
Well, again, you can have both new and old. "PlayStation IPs are garbage" is just your opinion. The reality is that gamers always fall back on familiar, established IPs and it's the same across any platform, whether it be from Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft, reflected in software sales as well when the God of Wars and Animal Crossings sell in the tens of millions.

So what's the harm in adding some familiar PlayStation IPs to the next-generation of PlayStation VR? If you consider Half-Life: Alyx helped boost sales of the Valve Index, not to mention other Steam compatible VR headsets, then there is certainly an argument to be made for Sony releasing their own killer app based on one of their IPs for PSVR 2.
 
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Rudius

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In my opinion what PSVR2 needs is more games that can be played fully in flat and VR, games like GT7, Resident Evil 8, the next Ace Combat (hopefully 🙏), first-person titles in general. On PSVR1 most of those were incomplete or just "VR modes".

It is unrealisticto expect a VR exclusive have the same budget as something like GT7, so the best that can happen is to have those games ported.
 

Rudius

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Personally i think VR exclusives hurt the future of VR. They should work together until VR hardware base is much higher and not make such shitty deals like with Resident Evil 7.
Resident Evil 7 was not shitty. Despite being limited to Dualshock it was still far better to play than flat. If RE8 gets ported it can use the new controllers and be as immersive as any VR exclusive.
 

Romulus

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In my opinion what PSVR2 needs is more games that can be played fully in flat and VR, games like GT7, Resident Evil 8, the next Ace Combat (hopefully 🙏), first-person titles in general. On PSVR1 most of those were incomplete or just "VR modes".

It is unrealisticto expect a VR exclusive have the same budget as something like GT7, so the best that can happen is to have those games ported.

I think that will happen. On the PSVR reddit, there were several devs saying that they couldn't get their games running because of the base PS4 GPU and the CPU. Elite Dangerous was one of them. Others made it known just how difficult the jaguar made life for development. We'll definitely see more ports with modes because it's not such a colossal struggle with an outdated CPU. Remember the PS4 CPU was trash on launch day. Zen2 is a far cry from that. Even in a few years, I don't think the Zen2 will as trash as the jaguar was in 2013.
 
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Men_in_Boxes

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What is this stupidity?

The Last of Us is generic zombie stuff.
Uncharted is off brand Indiana Jones.
God of War is vapid.
Gran Turismo is cars.
Ratchet and Clank is a children's show.
Astrobot?

Horizon is the only Sony IP that has any value from a creative perspective. It's the closest thing they have to their own Star Wars.

Everything else is meh.

I'm strictly talking about IP, not the quality of individual games or franchises.
 

Rudius

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that's the hardest part for VR actually. Big AAA games need to push a lot of good looking polygons and pixels to sell to graphics whores and sell 4K TVs.

requiring a frame for each eye and very smooth framerates (as opposed to the usual cinematic 30fps), something has to go. And graphics whores won't be happy.

that's why they usually try new games made for VR rather than straight ports - because the games that will run well are graphically simpler, like indies or older games from past generations

since I realized this with Skyrim and Borderlands, I've stopped playing AAA this generation with hopes that we're seeing a lot more ports like this on psvr2. We'll see if this is the case or we're back to indieland minigames...

I for one could live off playing just the likes of Killzone 2 or Resistance in VR. or RDR1.
The good news is that PS5 is actually quite powerful when running flat games. Titles like the Resident Evil 8 demo and Dirt 5 run at native 4K60 (Dirt in resolution mode, but is almost identical to graphics mode), so even if they were downgraded to around 1440p per eye in VR they would still look nice. For comparison, on PS4 Dirt 5 can't maintain 60fps while varying between 900p and 720p, with worse graphics.


Two 1440p images is still less pixels than a single 4K one, and they could employ dinamic resolution, checkerboard rendering and other techniques to improve visuals further.
 

Romulus

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The Last of Us is generic zombie stuff.
Uncharted is off brand Indiana Jones.
God of War is vapid.
Gran Turismo is cars.
Ratchet and Clank is a children's show.
Astrobot?

Horizon is the only Sony IP that has any value from a creative perspective. It's the closest thing they have to their own Star Wars.

Everything else is meh.

I'm strictly talking about IP, not the quality of individual games or franchises.

I mean you can literally discount any franchise using these contrarian tactics. "Rip off, casual, generic, boring."

Try harder.
 
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turtlepowa

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Resident Evil 7 was not shitty. Despite being limited to Dualshock it was still far better to play than flat. If RE8 gets ported it can use the new controllers and be as immersive as any VR exclusive.
With shitty i didn't mean the game, i meant Sony's move to buy VR exlusivity for it and keep it away from pc. That doesn't help VR to become more popular.
 

Men_in_Boxes

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I mean you can literally discount any franchise using these contrarian tactics. "Rip off, casual, generic, boring."

Try harder.

Nah, some IPs are stale copycats. Other IPs are genuinely creative and offer enough interesting pieces to be of value.

See: Horizon
 

Romulus

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Nah, some IPs are stale copycats. Other IPs are genuinely creative and offer enough interesting pieces to be of value.

See: Horizon

lol "Robots took over the world!" Never been done before and arguably slammed more than the other franchises you mentioned for being boring and stale.
 
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namekuseijin

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The Last of Us is generic zombie stuff.
Uncharted is off brand Indiana Jones.
God of War is vapid.
Gran Turismo is cars.
Ratchet and Clank is a children's show.
Astrobot?

Everything else is meh.

"Gran Turismo is cars"

quote of the year
 
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yurinka

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The question is will Sony commit the same budget they spend on their AAA games with VR?
Unless it's something like RE7, an AAA game for TV compatible in some form with VR, it wouldn't make sense. To make an AAA are super expensive and to make a VR exclusive AAA wouldn't be profitable in VR because it has a tiny market.

Until PSVR/PSVR2 gets a way bigger market it will continue getting mostly small and AA games, plus some TV AAA that may have a VR small game mode or weird (because the game wasn't designed around VR) VR implementation.

I think for PSVR2 they will debut with a bigger Astrobot 2, and if lucky a technically scaled down GT7 VR game mode.
 
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namekuseijin

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The good news is that PS5 is actually quite powerful when running flat games. Titles like the Resident Evil 8 demo and Dirt 5 run at native 4K60 (Dirt in resolution mode, but is almost identical to graphics mode), so even if they were downgraded to around 1440p per eye in VR they would still look nice. For comparison, on PS4 Dirt 5 can't maintain 60fps while varying between 900p and 720p, with worse graphics.


Two 1440p images is still less pixels than a single 4K one, and they could employ dinamic resolution, checkerboard rendering and other techniques to improve visuals further.

the bad news of course is that they're not allowing psvr1 to benefit from that power for such games in VR, so about 2 more years living on mini indies about throwing stuff around or slashing boxes