After years of hype building up and information trickling out, the PlayStation VR finally released. It’s been in the wild for roughly a month now, but has 2016 been a successful year for the fletching virtual reality system or are things already looking grim?
One thing the PSVR did have was a strong launch lineup. Exclusives like Batman Arkham VR, RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, Battlezone, and Driveclub VR all offered incredibly different experiences. No one launch title stood out as a must have, but it was a strong lineup of exclusive and non-exclusive games nonetheless. PS VR was initially touted as the system’s equivalent of Wii Sports, giving players a variety of small, demo-like activities to mess around in to get a feel for VR.
RIGS is certainly a highlight of the library. The game is a frantic, first person multiplayer game that puts players in the cockpit of a heavily armed mech and throws them in an arena to fight it out in what might be one of the most bombastic vide game sports in recent memory.
A more recent release is Eagle Flight. Set in a post-apocalyptic Paris that has been reclaimed by wildlife and nature, players take control of a majestic eagle as it soars above the city, engages in hectic races and battles for control of the skies against other birds of prey. Moving your head changes the direction the eagle flies, making flying seem like it’s second nature.
But the hardware doesn’t only support exclusively VR games. Several games have been released that include the option to play in virtual reality. Playing titles like Rez Infinite in VR completely changes the experience. The game’s abstract virtual space becomes all-encompassing, fully immersing the player in the fast-paced shooting and bizarre visuals. The same can be said for other titles that packed in an additional VR mode like Rise of the Tomb Raider’s VR exploration mode, and another way to enjoy the weirdness that is 100 Ft Robot Golf.
There is a nice balance of action, puzzle, and strange alternative games on offer. Some of these titles could have been put on the PS4 without VR support and have been just fine, but it’s the addition of the new technology that truly sets them apart. Moving around in a beautifully rendered 3D space and manipulating objects with the move wands adds a level of immersion that games have been striving to attain for years.
The PS VR is a good start to what will hopefully become a major part of the PlayStation brand. Developers are still figuring out how to create fantastic experiences in VR, but the first slate of games is still great.
The marketing has pushed the idea of entering other worlds, entering the game even further than a controller and flat screen allow you to. There’s no easy way to show the games themselves as they will appear in VR, so the in-game footage was interspersed with people wearing VR headsets looking around in wonder. It isn’t the best marketing strategy, but it does the job of communicating what the system is to the general public. The immersion is clearly expressed and the sense of excitement that comes with a new, revolutionary new product is also apparent.
We don’t know how this paid off, though. No sales numbers have been released just yet. But analyst reports are suggesting that as many as 1.4 million units may have been sold in 2016. This isn’t too surprising, given that there are more than 45 million PS4s in the world. They only increased this install base with the PS4 Pro. This massive install base is another reason that Sony could take this gamble.
It hasn’t paid off just yet, but as developers figure out how to develop fantastic VR games and create experiences that rival those that use traditional means of play, the games exclusive to the PS VR will start to bring in more and more players.
It hasn’t been out for long, but 2016 was a good starting point for the PlayStation VR. The marketing clearly defined what the product is; the price makes it affordable to many more consumers, and the diverse lineup of games offers different experiences from the main PS4 catalog. The PlayStation VR still has a long way to go, but it’s off to a good start. All that’s left is to see what 2017 holds.