Virtual Reality

PlayStation VR hands-on: A more mid-ranged alternative to the Rift and Vive

PlayStation VR hands-on: A mor...
The PlayStation VR will have a head-start in cost and base station adoption, but the overall experience isn't quite on par with the leading Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
The PlayStation VR will have a head-start in cost and base station adoption, but the overall experience isn't quite on par with the leading Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
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A CES attendee trying out PlayStation VR
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A CES attendee trying out PlayStation VR
The PlayStation Move controllers are functional, but in terms of usability lagging far behind Oculus Touch and the HTC Vive controllers
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The PlayStation Move controllers are functional, but in terms of usability lagging far behind Oculus Touch and the HTC Vive controllers
PlayStation VR is good, but not on par with the Rift or Vive
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PlayStation VR is good, but not on par with the Rift or Vive
Like the Rift and Vive, there's an external sensor that detects upper body movement
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Like the Rift and Vive, there's an external sensor that detects upper body movement
The PlayStation VR will have a head-start in cost and base station adoption, but the overall experience isn't quite on par with the leading Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
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The PlayStation VR will have a head-start in cost and base station adoption, but the overall experience isn't quite on par with the leading Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
The connector box that serves as a halfway point between PS4 and PlayStation VR headset
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The connector box that serves as a halfway point between PS4 and PlayStation VR headset
PlayStation VR title The London Heist
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PlayStation VR title The London Heist

Of the three big (non-mobile) VR headsets, PlayStation VR was the one that had the lowest profile at CES 2016. We did stop by Sony's booth for a demo, though, and have some new impressions on where it currently stacks up.

Update: We now have a more current (and more in-depth) hands-on with PSVR, from GDC.

If you lump PlayStation VR together with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, in most ways it's going to come in last. First, it's connected to a significantly less powerful machine: the relatively low-end PS4 vs. a highish-end gaming PC (running at least a GTX 970 GPU for the Rift). Sony's display also has lower resolution: 960 x 1,080 per eye vs. 1,080 x 1,200 per eye for the Rift and Vive.

In this way it's the same story as any comparison of traditional PC gaming to console gaming: on a raw performance level, the PC is going to win every time.

Like the Rift and Vive, there's an external sensor that detects upper body movement
Like the Rift and Vive, there's an external sensor that detects upper body movement

But what about on an experience level? I had just used the consumer Oculus Rift a couple hours before hitting up the PS VR demo, so I still had that image fresh in my mind, and while PlayStation VR was still very good, it trailed noticeably. Our CES demo of The London Heist on the PS VR looked a lot like playing a game on an Oculus Rift DK2 (a now-obsolete development kit based on a 2+ year-old Rift prototype). It didn't have an egregious "screen door effect" (seeing visible pixels as you move your head around), but there also wasn't quite the visual clarity or environmental definition of the consumer Rift's best demos.

The performance gap was just significant enough to make it feel a bit less like a magical teleporting machine and more like a cool piece of consumer technology. If you've never used one of the PC-based headsets, then you may walk off blown away by PS VR. But if you have used them, the PS VR experience is more like "eh, not too shabby."

The PlayStation Move controllers are functional, but in terms of usability lagging far behind Oculus Touch and the HTC Vive controllers
The PlayStation Move controllers are functional, but in terms of usability lagging far behind Oculus Touch and the HTC Vive controllers

Another relative weakness is the PlayStation Move controllers. Like Oculus Touch and the Vive controllers, PS Move lets you have hands inside first-person experiences, but the five-year-old form factor isn't keeping up with the other two. Sony's controllers were designed for the tail-end of the Wii era, as a rival to Nintendo's motion controllers. While Oculus Touch and the Vive controllers make you feel like you really do have hands, PS Move feels more like holding a couple of vibrators (or uh, so I can imagine).

PS Move is simply too big and remote-like to compete with the PC-based motion controllers. Reaching to grab a cell phone in our demo didn't feel lifelike at all; PS Move requires more imagination to think your hands are really interacting with virtual objects – unless they happen to be swords, large sticks or other phallic items.

Sony would be wise to release smaller, lighter and more ergonomic versions before PlayStation VR's launch in the first half of this year. At this point, sticking with the existing PS Move strikes us as taking a shortcut: hey, here's a golden opportunity to offload all this unsold inventory!

A CES attendee trying out PlayStation VR
A CES attendee trying out PlayStation VR

In traditional gaming, consoles make up for their inferior performance vs. PCs with more affordable pricing and an abundance of consumer-friendly games. So far PlayStation VR only has one of those two advantages.

A Rift-compatible PC will set you back around US$900+ in addition to the $599 Oculus Rift. If you don't already own a PS4, PS VR will require just an extra $350 for the console on top of whatever the headset costs. So even if the PS VR headset ended up costing, say, $200 more than the Rift, the total package would still be $350 cheaper than the Rift bundle.

Then there's the fact that Sony has already sold around 36 million units of its current-gen console since its launch in late 2013. We aren't sure how many GTX 970+ PCs there are in the wild, but you can bet it's a teeny-tiny fraction of that mark. No matter how Sony prices the PS VR headset itself, it's going to be standing on the shoulders of all those existing PS4s.

PlayStation VR title The London Heist
PlayStation VR title The London Heist

As far as games, though, we haven't seen as much from Sony as we have from Oculus. There have been some announcements that we'll be keeping our eyes on (including exclusives Rez Infinite, Golem and The London Heist) but at this point we've seen at least five or six games from Oculus that we believe could be generation-defining experiences. We haven't yet played any PS VR demos that we'd put into that category.

In many ways PlayStation VR is what you're asking for when you get upset about the Oculus Rift's price. Will the total package be cheaper? Yes, possibly by a wide margin. But the quality deficit is also going to be noticeable – possibly by a wide margin.

PlayStation VR releases in the first half of 2016, for an unknown price. For more on VR at CES 2016, you can hit up our hands-ons with the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

Product page: Sony

9 comments
KevinDouglas
What PSVR has that Oculus doesn't is the ability to track your entire body via the PS camera and this has been seen with the Rez VR demo. Vive also has some interesting tech for that as well. And this is going to be big because in many ways you need to be able to track the body in order to realize the full concept that VR is eventually expected to progress to. PSVR will also have more AAA games. PSVR will be what people come to know as VR. It will be the frontrunner. Why? The PS brand and the PS4 install base. Vive and Rift will wind up as nothing more than niche devices used mostly in research and by the most hardcore of PC gamers. In other words, to the average person, Rift and Vive won't even exist, but they will be important stepping stones in consumer VR and help advance it further technically.
Krakatosh
Just read that HTC Vive might possibly get marketed for USD1500 at launch.. on top of already announced price USD600 (rift) + touch controlleres + high end PC. It is highly possible that if Sony gets the price right, it could be dominant player in VR for a very long time. For any platform to strive they need to sell NOT thousands but millions. Any game developer will be looking to develop VR apps where it sells the most and Sony might as well bag exclusives one after each other. For any AAA game to make a return it needs to sell 1 mil+. I am somehow brought back to Earth by recent Oculus price reveal. We are a few years away from VR taking off. Just hope these few years are not gonna be the killer years...
Andrew Blayney
Or it will be another gimmick like the Eyetoy and Move controllers.
Augure
Nowhere did you mention that despite the slightly lower resolution the use of a different screen make the PSVR image way cleaner than of the Oculus (and not just for screen door effect). Nowhere do you mention that a PS4, which like all console is way more optimised that any PC therefor can output more power for a same configuration especially with the added PSVR hardware, and in fact the performance per price is way better value on the PSVR. Nowhere do you mention that a HUGE difference for end user between Oculus (or Vive) and PS4, is that PS4 is plug-and-play: you fire the PS4, put on the PSVR and launch or buy any game in an instant. On PC, the fact that you have to boot it-up, then install software and drivers, then they have to be compatible, then games have to be compatible with your setting...cue the DK1/DK2 experience. And finally, beside the price, the way larger installed base, lower price, optimised SDKs for devs etc...is going to drive way more content and games to the PSVR (it's already the case as far announcements go) than on Oculus Rift (or Vive judging by the currently available VR library).
drd7of14
I do always dislike how an idea based on opinion becomes fact somehow. "Sony's controllers were designed for the tail-end of the Wii era, as a rival to Nintendo's motion controllers." Sony's Move controllers were being designed and prototyped during the development of the PS2 along with the eyetoy. They weren't a quick cash-in response to the Wii-Motes.
GregorEbert
And yet another pro-PS4 post: Apparently there will be an external device between PS4 and PSVR that will enhance the graphical output of the PS4 to have an 120FPS output and minor latency for all VR games. And if you have a look at current PS4 games - on a 2D screen they are georgeous IMO. So just think of them and imaging them in 3D - "Hello, bright VR future!" ;-)
PabloDuganheim
I think so much is contingent on how much the production costs are and how much of a profit Sony expects from this with their initial pricing. In the past, game console manufacturers have been willing to sell their concepts, games, and even full consoles at a loss in order to push the tech and profit in other areas. This is the proverbial 'getting the foot in the door' method of marketing. They used this exact strategy with the PS3 and this was at the original launch price at $599 (which was lowered at a later time). Even with production cost coming down, Sony still took a financial beating through much of the life cycle of the console before they eventually turned a profit. Sony is rumored to be pricing their PSVR around the price of a console. Michael Pachter, who is a well known gaming indusry journalist, is expecting around a $400 price tag. http://vrfocus.com/archives/28007/pachter-on-psvr-it-is-highly-likely-to-be-400-usd/ He said $300 might be possible, but he doesn't expect it and says that such a price means they are out to move a lot of units. I imagine this would be that same foot-in-the-door strategy with an initial loss. $400 matches the launch pricing of the PS4 and sounds about right. If they go much higher than this, I think it they will be off to a rocky start. Pricing at more, or maybe considerably more, than their rough PS4 base unit price along with being unproven tech will make a lot of already invested PS4 consumers balk at pushing in their gaming chips for a day-one (or later) mandatory purchase. As for whether VR in general flies or dies at this point is up for debate. I would like to see the tech work out, but this is one time where I can easily see the risks of being an early adopter. If they come out swinging with a decent stable of games and a decent price, like $400, I might push all in too, but for now it's a waiting game.
EmmaWoodwark
Virtual reality is just blowing up lately isn't it,everyone is jumping on the hype! But I disagree I think it will actually do better than the other consoles. I agree with this gaming blogger who said that that PS VR is going to be more successful than any other console because PS4 is much more accessible to people. He also compared it to the success of game changers like Wii in its time. Makes a lot of sense to me! http://www.opinionpanel.co.uk/2016/02/22/playstation-virtual-reality-hype-real/
AlexSt.Yves
couple of my views -First gizmag is very anti PS VR. Every single article I read from here is always bashing the PS VR. -I will trust the dedicated GAMING VR to provide me with more "consumer friendly games" then a facebook ran company, or a cell phone company to provide me with So in that respect sony wins in both games and price -Finally it would be pretty stupid to argue that the PS VR wont be the go to vr for the masses. Rift and Vive my have better hardware but the more supported platform will be the PS VR