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Sony Needs to Figure Out PlayStation VR 2

Even though it launched a little over a year ago, Sony’s PlayStation VR 2 feels like the forgotten child in the VR landscape. And now reports say Sony’s pausing PSVR 2 production until it can sell through its stock because of disappointing sales. Sony could fix this, if it wanted to.

The $500 VR headset accessory for the PlayStation 5 wowed me when I first reviewed it, but in the past year, I haven’t used it nearly as much as the Meta Quest 3 or even, recently, Apple’s Vision Pro

At least part of the issue is that it’s a tethered headset that requires me to be attached to my PlayStation 5. That means it’s far less portable than Meta’s or Apple’s standalone devices, which can be used anywhere.

But that’s not the real reason I don’t use the PSVR 2 all that much. It’s more that Sony hasn’t made enough unique experiences to make me want to return to it.

It’s even weirder to me because right now, in 2024, VR is having a bit of a comeback. Meta’s headsets have continued to be popular. Apple’s Vision Pro, while way too expensive for most, is showing off new ideas for multitasking, apps and eye- and hand-tracking. Sony already built eye-tracking into the PSVR 2, along with some fantastic-feeling haptics in the controllers and headset, but these technologies still don’t feel maximized yet on Sony’s hardware.

There are a few big obvious misses Sony’s made with this headset since its launch, which I’ll expand on below, with suggestions on how Sony could make the PSVR 2 feel more essential, if Sony cared to pursue them.

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Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is a true classic. It’s just one of the PSVR games that never made the leap to PSVR 2.

Sony Interactive Entertainment

PSVR 2 still has no access to Sony’s original PlayStation VR game library 

Sony released the first PSVR headset all the way back in 2016 and kept feeding the PSVR with a number of unique exclusive games that helped make the accessory recommendable well after VR hardware from that same year had become obsolete. Games like Astro Bot: Rescue Mission that’s one of the best Mario-type games in VR I’ve ever played; Blood & Truth, which felt like a living movie; and Dreams was like a living laboratory for self-made creations. There were also games like Paper Beast, which was weird and wonderfully Sony, and also Star Wars: Squadrons, an excellent VR dogfighting game that was everything I wanted in a Star Wars VR experience.

The PSVR 2 did bring over some of the PSVR’s best games in ports or updates: Moss, Superhot, Tetris Effect and No Man’s Sky. The PSVR had a totally different tracking system (it needed a TV-mounted camera instead of using in-headset cameras) and different controllers (it used the ancient Move controller wands instead of Sony’s optimized Sense controllers for PSVR 2). Still, I can’t understand why some of these classic games weren’t given ports. Astro Bot, at the very least, has been a magic mascot of Sony’s exploratory tech in games for the last half-decade.

Those older games might be a bit dated, but I doubt they’d age as much as you’d think. VR games tend to have long lifespans; many of the best Quest and Steam VR games were around all the back in 2016. Sony could update the graphics some, or at least just make them playable. Nintendo has done this trick over and over again, delivering classics back to fans who adopt new hardware. Sony should and could do the same to honor its own PlayStation catalog.

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Spider-Man in VR — why hasn’t this happened already?

PlayStation

More PS5 games need to be playable in VR

You can play all PlayStation games in PSVR 2 in a flat 2D-screen mode, but I’m not talking about that. I mean entering these games in full 3D modes with immersive features. Sony’s done this from time to time, teasing the possibilities. Gran Turismo 7 is still my favorite PSVR 2 game because it allows me to jump in and drive cars on all of the game’s tracks in full immersive VR. It’s an amazing feeling and makes PSVR 2 with Gran Turismo 7 the best driving simulator I have at home. It feels like I’ve entered the PlayStation completely.

That feeling is exactly what PSVR 2 should always be striving for. The PSVR 2 has its own library of games, many of them familiar ports of titles on the Quest and Steam VR. PlayStation fans want to see classic PlayStation brands hop over, though. God of War. The Last of Us. Spider-Man. Horizon got a unique VR game at the PSVR 2 launch, but what about playing the rest of the other two games in VR modes, too?

Again, I concede this isn’t easy. And yet, Capcom has consistently done it. Resident Evil 7 on PSVR and Resident Evil 4 and Village on PSVR 2 show how good immersive cross-play titles could be. I expected, back when the PSVR 2 launched last February, that Gran Turismo and Resident Evil would just be the start of a whole bunch of cross-playable games. And yet, in March 2024, no others have arrived. It’s baffling.

Sony should take a page from Apple: the Vision Pro champions living in Apple’s existing apps but with newly added immersive features. The PlayStation VR 2 needs to feel the same.

Meta Quest 2 and Sony PSVR 2 headsets on a green background Meta Quest 2 and Sony PSVR 2 headsets on a green background

The Meta Quest 2 (left) can connect to a PC; the PSVR 2 (right) should do that, too.

Scott Stein/CNET

Add PC compatibility (and bring more PC games to PSVR 2)

In February, Sony announced it’s going to enable the PSVR 2 to work with PC games sometime in 2024. Whether that means direct connection to Windows PCs or using the PS5 to bridge to Steam, similar to what the Meta Quest does, isn’t clear. But yes, folding in PC gaming to the PSVR 2 wouldn’t hurt at all.

What I really hope is that Sony finds a way to bring more top-end SteamVR games into Sony’s ecosystem. The PS5 is already massively powered, and a possible PS5 Pro model coming by the end of the year could provide even more graphics punch. I’ve dreamed of Half-Life Alyx somehow making its way to PSVR 2 since Sony announced its new headset back in 2022, and so have many gamers. 

A few unique PC games have already made the leap, like Vertigo 2, but there should be way more at this point. The PSVR 2’s unique advantage over the Quest is its much more powerful console hardware, and yet many of its games are Quest ports. Sony should reach for the stars if it wants its headset to survive and look to Steam’s library to do it.

A PSVR 2 headset next to the PlayStation 5 on a wooden table A PSVR 2 headset next to the PlayStation 5 on a wooden table

The PSVR 2 and PS5 need to be sold together for a more affordable price.

Scott Stein/CNET

Release affordable bundles!

Buying a PS5 and PSVR 2 is a really expensive proposition. Not quite the $3,500 Apple commands for a Vision Pro, but at $1,000 (plus games) it’s a lot more than a Meta Quest 3. Sony still hasn’t released an attractive bundle of the PS5 and PSVR 2, although maybe that moment is still coming this year. If there’s a higher-end PS5 Pro, it could mean existing consoles get price cuts or bundles. Even though Sony updated its PS5 hardware last fall, the PSVR 2 wasn’t included with it in holiday packages. 

It’s hard to convince anyone to buy a headset accessory for a game console that costs as much as the game console itself. Reducing the price of the PSVR 2 (a move that Sony did with the original PlayStation VR) would help a lot, too: $350 is much easier to swallow than $500.

And if Sony can reduce the price, it should do it soon. Sales reports of the PSVR 2 have already shown it massively trails other VR headsets, and it almost looks like Sony will let the hardware die before it ever gets started. That would be a huge loss because there’s so much the PSVR 2 could still do. That all depends on Sony, though, because VR and AR hardware is only as good as the unique software that’s made for it.


 

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