As of Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET, several major retailers including Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have opened preorders for Sony’s $500 PlayStation VR launch bundle, the company’s formal entry into the virtual reality portal. Tempting as it may be to drop five Benjamin Franklins (if you can; if it isn’t sold out yet before October), general wisdom begs you at least consider what you’re buying.
First, this is what you’re getting in that $500 package:
- PlayStation VR headset
- PlayStation VR cables
- Stereo headphones
- PlayStation Worlds, a collection of VR minigames
- PlayStation Camera
- PlayStation Move controllers
That’s not a bad value for $500. But even so, early adoption of breakthrough consumer technology isn’t often advised. (NB: This isn’t a rant against people who sleep in front of Apple stores to get the new iPhone). Just take it from any gamer who knows what it’s like to sink hundreds into a new console with a lackluster library: It kinda sucks.
It’s been twenty years since Nintendo’s ill-fated Virtual Boy, a very early attempt at consumer VR that was more a consumer headache. But even now, virtual reality is still a beast for taming; programmers, creative directors and even musical composers will admit they’re still figuring it out. The same goes for any time Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft unleashes a new game console, when the rush to own the newest hardware overshadows the actual games released at launch.
Remember the PlayStation 2, which became one of the highest-selling consoles of all time? Remember its launch titles? The only piece that got any massive and universal praise was SSX, a snowboarding game, followed closely by Tekken Tag Tournament, which was just an upgrade of Tekken 3.
Or, remember the Xbox 360 launch titles? Boy those were some classic games, like … uh, Call of Duty 2?
Remember the “revolutionary” Nintendo Wii, before it became everyone’s $200 door stop six months later? Aside from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, pretty much the only one we played was Wii Sports.
But within a few short years those consoles wound up producing classics, like God of War, Kingdom Hearts, and Shadow of the Colossus on the PlayStation 2, Mass Effect and Gears of War on the Xbox 360, and No More Heroes for the Wii.
Virtual reality is exciting, but we’re still in the awkward early stages. For every one awesome game or profound project, there’s a dozen more tech demos that aren’t fulfilling, just novelties that will so boldly show the format’s flaws in just a few short years.
I’m totally with you on VR, it’s exciting tech with countless possibilities. I’ve even tried out PlayStation VR and can tell you it’s actually pretty sweet. And after a childhood diet of Star Trek and VR Troopers I’m ready for the future to become now. But the past says: maybe wait just a little longer for the product to blossom.