Today at 2PM Pacific, Sony is holding a VR Press Event at GDC. All signs point to this being the big coming out party for PlayStation VR with a release date and pricing details finally being announced. If so, I'll finally find out how horribly off one of my 2016 Predictions turned out. As a refresher, the PS VR prediction in question is as follows:
PlayStation VR launches with No Man's Sky at $399.99 - This is in part the follow up to my PSX prediction (that No Man's Sky is a PS VR launch title). Now that Oculus had dropped their price at $599.99, Sony will have to respond if they want to make an impact in the VR space. When Oculus announced, I wrote that I suspect PlayStation is poised to target a middle-tier of early adopters (w/ Oculus being upper-tier and Google Cardboard or the Samsung Gear VR being targeted at the lower-tier) when it comes to quality and price. This seems supported by Lucky Palmer himself identifying that PS VR connected to a PlayStation 4 is not as powerful as the Rift on a high-powered PC (no big surprise there, really given the power of a $1000+ PC compared to the originally-$400 PS4). So I'm locking in that PS VR will be priced at $400 and include No Man's Sky just as the Oculus pre-orders include Lucky's Tale and EVE: Valkyrie.
With No Man's Sky now announced for a firm June 22nd release date, I'm probably now horribly off. It still makes too much sense though for No Man's Sky to be a VR title. The amount of time and resources Sony has invested in showcasing the game suggest it's a very important title to them but outside of the scope of the game, there haven't been any real standout features. This suggests to me that VR is that standout: PlayStation's answer to EVE: Valkyrie.,
Additionally, the $600 and $800 price points of the Rift and Vive sets, respectively, suggest my original prediction of $400 is also probably off. Throw in the fact that the system would need to include the headset/processing box, a Move controller or two, and at least one pack-in game/experience and the numbers are not in my favor.
All said and done, I'll stand by my original beginning of the year prediction but here are a few more "revised" predictions now that the day is finally upon us and the landscape is a bit more clear.
Release Date: Friday, November 11, 2016 - Originally, all accounts were pointing to a release date in the first half of 2016. And rumors are suggesting the hardware is pretty much locked and ready to go. But the games and experiences have been on the light side so it wouldn't surprise me if they pushed it to a November release date to give developers a bit more time to build up the library. With all eyes on VR this year, all of the companies need a good library of experiences in order to get the word out and move units. November 11 gets the system out there during the holiday rush and celebrates the 10 year anniversary of the PlayStation 3's launch.
Price: Headset-only = $400; PS VR Bundle (Headset + 2 Move Controllers + PlayStation Camera) = $500; All-in-One Bundle (PlayStation 4 + Headset + 2 Move Controllers + 1 DualShock 4 Controller + PlayStaion Camera) = $800 - My initial prediction didn't account for all of the minutiae of this hardware launch. PlayStation VR uses existing hardware on the market like the PlayStation Camera and the light sensors from the DualShock 4 and Move controllers. Many system owners already possess some of these items so while I imagine Sony will really push an All-in-One experience for new users or the VR Pack, they'll also need to include some a la carte options for those of us who already invested in some of the tech and only need the Headset and Move controllers.
These price points would be ideal for Sony, allowing verbiage like "starting at $400" and "get it all for the price of the Vive, without spending another $1000 on a PC." Pretty much everyone has acknowledged that the PlayStation VR is the most affordable/underpowered option of the three big VR offerings so it stands to reason that even the PS VR Bundles with all of the equivalent hardware to the Rift or Vive bundles would come in below the $600 and $800 pricing. With nearly 40 million PlayStation 4s already out in the wild, it absolutely makes perfect business sense for Sony to attempt the Nintendo business strategy: focusing on a lower-powered offering that people can actually afford and get into their homes (a la the Nintendo, Game Boy, Wii, etc.).
Launch Pack-In Titles = No Man's Sky VR, Eagle Flight and 100-ft Robot Golf - A benefit of pushing the launch of the system to November is that it gives more time for the PlayStation teams to tighten up a No Man's Sky VR experience outside of the PS4 and PC versions of the game launching in June. Partnering with Ubisoft's Eagle Flight - shown at PlayStation Experience - benefits both companies both in the VR space and their ongoing collaborations on items like console exclusive Assassin's Creed/Watch_Dogs DLC. And 100-ft Robot Golf got the biggest response in the room at PlayStation Experience and has the Wii Sports-ness behind it that helped make the Wii such a runaway success.
The Oculus has Lucky's Tale and EVE: Valkyrie. The HTC Vive has Fantastic Contraption, Job Simulator, and Tilt Brush. PS VR launching with No Man's Sky, Eagle Flight, and 100-ft Robot Golf gives a little something for everybody.
Early adopters will show off something like 100-ft Robot Golf or Eagle Flight to their parents and suddenly the parents are out there picking up that $800 All-in-One Bundle and setting it up right next to their dusty old Wii.
So there we have it. A few new and modified predictions in anticipation of today's PlayStation VR. I look forward to revisiting them in a few hours and seeing just how wrong I am!