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Sony needs to show its commitment to PSVR

Resident Evil 7 is a great coup, but the company must prove the platform isn't going the way of PS Move

The positive reviews pouring in from all corners for Capcom's Resident Evil 7 are a welcome validation of the firm's decision to go in quite a radically new direction with the series, but Capcom isn't the only company that will be happy (and perhaps a little relieved) by the response to the game. A positive reaction to RE7 is also hugely important for Sony, because this is the first real attempt at proving that PSVR is a worthy platform for full-scale, AAA games, and much of the credibility of the nascent VR platform rests on RE7.

Although some of the sentiment in reviews of the game suggests that the VR mode is interesting but somewhat flawed, and several reviewers have expressed a preference for playing on a normal screen, the game's VR aspect undoubtedly fascinates consumers and seems to be implemented well enough to justify their interest. In the process, it also justifies Sony's investment in the title - the company did a deal that secured a year-long VR exclusivity window for PSVR - and Capcom's own faith in the burgeoning medium, which undoubtedly played a large role in the decision to switch the entire game over to a first-person perspective.

The critical success of RE7, and the likely commercial success that will follow, comes at a crucial juncture for PSVR. Although the hardware was well-reviewed at launch and remains more or less supply-constrained at retail - you certainly can't get your hands on one without paying a hefty re-seller premium in Japan at the moment, and believe me I've tried - there's an emerging narrative about the VR headset that's distinctly negative and pessimistic. Plenty of op-eds and videos have popped up in recent weeks comparing PSVR to previous Sony peripheral launches like PlayStation Eye and PlayStation Move; hardware that was launched with a lot of heavy marketing support but which the giant company rapidly seemed to lose interest in, condemning it to a few years of token, declining software support before being quietly shelved altogether.

"there's no question but that Sony has a bad track record with peripherals, and those interested in the future of PSVR should absolutely be keeping a close eye on the company"

It's worth noting, of course, that neither Eye nor Move actually died off entirely - in fact, both of these technologies have made their way into PSVR itself, with the headset essentially being an evolution of a number of previous Sony technologies that have finally found a decent application in VR. However, there's no question but that Sony has a bad track record with peripherals, and those interested in the future of PSVR should absolutely be keeping a close eye on the company to see if there are any signs of it repeating its past behaviour patterns.

Most of what's being written now, however, feels premature. PSVR had a pretty solid launch line-up, with good support from across the industry; just this week it got its first truly big third-party AAA title, which is receiving excellent reviews, and later in the year it's got some big launches like GT Sport on the way. The pace of software releases slumped after the launch window, but that's not unusual for any platform. There's nothing about PSVR that you can point to right now and declare as evidence of Sony's focus shifting away; it feels like editorials claiming this are doing so purely on the basis of Sony's track record, not the facts as they exist now.

If you really want to know how PSVR is shaping up, there are two key things to watch out for in the near future. The first will be any data that's released regarding the performance of RE7's VR mode; is it popular? Is it being played widely? Does it become a part of the broad conversation about the game? Much of this latter aspect is down to Sony and Capcom's marketing of course; there's an opportunity to push the VR aspect of RE7 as a genuinely unique experience with appeal even beyond the usual gaming audience, and if that can be capitalised upon, it will likely secure PSVR's future to a large degree. What's crucial, though, is that every other company in the industry will be watching RE7 like hawks; if proper, well-integrated PSVR support seems to be a major selling factor or a popular feature, you can be guaranteed that other publishers will start to look at their major franchises with a view to identifying which of them would suit a similar "traditional display plus optional VR" approach.

"There's still plenty of time to announce VR titles for the back half of this year, which is likely to be the crucial point for PSVR"

The other thing to watch for, unsurprisingly, is what Sony does at E3 and other major gaming events this spring. This is really where we'll see the proof of the company's focus - or lack of same. There's still plenty of time to announce VR titles for the back half of this year, which is likely to be the crucial point for PSVR; by the time we slip into the second half of 2017, the hardware will no longer be supply constrained and the early adopters buying for novelty will be all but exhausted. That's the point in time where PSVR's software line-up really needs to come together coherently, to convince the next wave of potential purchasers that this is a platform worth investing in. If it fails that test, PSVR will join Move and Eye in the graveyard of Sony's failed peripherals; success will turn it into a cornerstone of the PS4 for the coming years.

So keep a close eye on E3. Part of this is just down to optics; how much time and focus does the firm devote to PSVR on stage at its conference? If it's not very much, if the PSVR section feels rushed or underemphasised, that will send a strong message that Sony is back to its old bad habits and has lost interest in its latest peripheral already. A strong, confident PSVR segment would convince consumers and the industry alike that the headset isn't just another easily abandoned gimmick; better yet if this is backed up by plenty of the big games being announced having PSVR functionality built into them, so the device can be referred back to repeatedly during the conference rather than being confined to its own short segment.

It's more than just optics though; the reality is that PSVR, like any platform, needs software, and Sony needs to lead the way by showing that it's truly devoted to its own hardware. It may seem a little unfair that people are already keen to declare PSVR to be stumbling due to lack of attention, and well, it is a little unfair - but nobody should be surprised that people are seeing a pattern here that Sony itself clearly established with its behaviour towards previous peripherals. That's the reputation the firm has, unfortunately, created for itself; that makes it all the more important that it should convince the world of its commitment to PSVR when the time comes.

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Latest comments (8)

Christopher Dring Publisher, GamesIndustry.biz8 months ago
It's interesting to see the latest ResidentEvil.net stats have 10% of RE7 players trying VR - and of course that's across all platforms, with the majority not having VR as an option. https://www.residentevil.net/en/sevenrecord.html?ref=fb
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Charlie Scott-Skinner Senior Developer 8 months ago
Another thing that contributes to the feeling Sony is pulling back from PSVR is it's closing of Guerrilla Cambridge who have put out one of the better fully fledged games on the hardware, RIGs, and indeed did so on the Vita as well with Killzone.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Charlie Scott-Skinner on 27th January 2017 4:50pm

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Kevin Patterson musician 8 months ago
PSVR is amazing and RE 7's VR mode is intense and very enjoyable to play. PSVR is worth the cost and I hope Sony supports it as it deserves.
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Show all comments (8)
Jordan Lund Columnist 8 months ago
Sony seems to be ditching VR faster than they did the Vita.

Since launch they've closed studios that made key VR titles, made no mention of VR at the Playstation Experience which was right after the platform launched, made no mention of it in their PR re-cap of 2016 performance (PS4 and PS4 Pro only) AND they haven't re-stocked retailers who sold out before Christmas... you know, little places like "Amazon" and "Gamestop".

All told, it doesn't look good for PSVR... so what does that say about Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive? Both of them were outsold by PSVR.
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Oscar Escamilla Perez Game Designer 8 months ago
Well, RE7 will be a good indicator of VR performance just because its IP strenght, but first person VR horror games are not for everybody. Even Capcom recommends to play first on normal mode and then on VR, just to filter a bit the intense and stressful experience.
I would wait on something a bit more acceptable to the common player population, a shooter like Farpoint or a full Star Wars VR game, before giving a final judgement on the performance of PSVR

Personally, after playing Until Dawn Rush of Blood, I'm not that excited to play an horror game again. I'm far more excited for the PSVR update to Dirt Rally, a stressful game in its own way, but a game that guarantees my heart will not explode just by crashing the car on a tree.
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Christopher Dring Publisher, GamesIndustry.biz8 months ago
I'm not sure what has happened with Guerrilla Cambridge should be an indicator of their VR commitment.

Both platform holders seem to be winding down their internal studios a little, while investing more in third-party developers. Perhaps this is a mirroring of the movie business, where the studios have very little internal resource, and simply outsource the projects they end up commissioning.

Sony's big exclusives are increasingly coming from third-parties, although it's most notable with Microsoft, which has outsourced Crackdown, Forza, Minecraft, Halo, Killer Instinct and so on. Even Nintendo is doing it more frequently, with the likes of Star Fox.
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee8 months ago
I don't think Sony would drop the platform so quickly, what they did was clearly something closer to a soft launch. Two major pieces of hardware were released last year, PS4 Pro probably more important, and more fundamental to their hold on the console market right now.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 8 months ago
The issue is that vr is just too expensive, and until Scorpio, the hardware is very limited on the console side.

You can't just move the camera to eye level to make a good vr experience, and with Sony's launch sugar daddy money pretty much dried up, so we need to wait for people working VR to generate more product.

Those who think PSVR selling more than Oculus and Vive, it's simply a result of far better mainstream exposure, lower price, and far better install base. But that base has to see "real" VR games like RE7 and Ace Combat, but the compromises in fidelity may tick people off too much. They need to play madden in vr, Call of Duty, and that's not possible on PS4 based platforms, not the way they envision it.

Pc makers need to get goggles with wands down to $399 stat, and keep it going down.
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