Features & News

Playstation VR: On Your Marks, Headset, Dough

March 18, 2016, Author: Matt Parker

This VR stuff is actually happening, huh? It’s no longer just some elaborate gimmick that you see at events, heard talked about on podcasts or see pictures of on websites. These headsets are actually launching and launching very soon. So, why only talk about them now?

My main reason for ignoring both Oculus Rift and the Vive is because they’re not realistic products. They require insanely beefy computers and they both cost well over £500. With the Playstation VR we have something approaching affordable and that has fewer hurdles to jump over than most VR solutions. It’s launching soon, with a release date of October this year, so let’s have a look at it, shall we?

Firstly, this is one of the most basic headsets to explain – though some explaining it does require. Whilst the cost of Playstation VR is said to be £349 (that’s more than the price of the PS4 at the moment), you will need more than just the headset to get things running. Speaking of which, here’s what you’ll need;

  • A PS4
  • A Playstation VR
  • A Playstation Camera

That’s it. There’s no need to count how many cores your CPU has. Don’t tote up all of your RAM Giggybits. I don’t care if you have an Ultron GTX980 graphics card or not. Those three things are all you’ll need to get Playstation VR running. There will also be a bundle of Playstation VR that comes with the Playstation Camera and you can expect that to push the cost up to £400. It’s still not chump change but compared to the cost of its rivals, Playstation VR is close to reasonable.

Thanks to a recent talk at GDC (and thanks to TechInsider) we’ve got some slides that shows what’s inside the box.

I hope you don't mind wires cluttering up the place.

I hope you don’t mind wires cluttering up the place.

You can see the headset pretty clearly but there’s also another box of tricks. This is a processing unit and it’ll plug into your PS4. It basically does some extra work on your Playstation’s behalf. Your PS4 is already working hard to spit out shiny polygons that it can’t handle the extra job of keeping an eye on where you’re looking. So that’s where the processing unit helps out.

Speaking of shiny polygons, just what games can we look forward to with VR? That’s been the question all along. Sure we’ve had interesting demos but what about some actual games. Sony did their best to showcase a few titles off, but this still seems like an issue and will likely be a case of Chicken vs. Egg. Developers will make games for VR when there’s people buying the damn things. People will buy VR when developers are making damn games.

One of the trailers that caught my eye involved giant robots playing golf badly and causing mass carnage as a result. Keep your McIlroys, my money’s on the 100ft mech.

It’s not just small indie studios, with their wacky and original ideas that are jumping on the VR bandwagon. You better believe that huge AAA studios with licenses to use are also getting in on the action. This is where EA’s Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine comes in. Cynicism aside – a VR Star Wars could be great.

So, it’s clear that lots of money is being spent on this VR thing and not just on the development side as it seems like the buying public are interested and willing to get in early. Oculus Rift and Vive headsets are in short supply and Amazon sold out of their pre-allocated Playstation VR headsets within a few minutes of pre-orders going live. So even if you are keen, you’re going to have to join the back of the line and wait your turn to hand over your money.

I’ll admit that I’m slightly sceptical of this taking off in a big way. I have a feeling this could go the way of 3D TVs. We’ve got ridiculous specs required for PC headsets and now we’ve got a VR headset that’s tied to a console that’s approaching middle-age in terms of how long it’s going to be around.

Hardware, in general, is in a bit of a strange place. With Microsoft looking to alter how we think about consoles, potentially shifting to a cycle similar to mobile phones, could this muddy the waters further? Will VR be nothing more than a niche fad that only the extremely well-off tech bods enjoy? For now, it all seems over-priced and not entirely practical. Which is what they said about talking pictures, colour TVs and mobile phones with cameras in them.