Virtual reality has failed to live up to the hype thus far, but that could change soon.
While there are some fantastic games like Half-Life: Alyx and Moss, this emerging corner of the video game market remains niche with a high cost of entry. One of the most accessible and successful headsets is Sony’s PlayStation VR.
Its overall visual quality was a bit lacking and requires many messy wires, but it successfully appeals to console gamers more than any other headset. It even has some enjoyable exclusives like Astro Bot: Rescue Mission and Farpoint. In February, Sony announced its plans for a second PlayStation VR headset.
While details remain scarce, UploadVR reports some impressive specs for the next-gen VR systems. In lieu of this report, Inverse spoke to Omdia Principal Analyst George Jijiashvili to assess the upgraded model’s viability in the fledgling VR market.
‘Sony will be looking to again balance PSVR 2’s specs with affordability and exclusive content like they did with the original PSVR,” he tells Inverse. If these early teases are any indication, the next PlayStation VR headset might be a resounding success — even if it doesn’t bring VR into the mainstream just yet.
The May 10 UploadVR report claims that the new PlayStation VR will have a 4000x2040 resolution that is significantly greater than most headsets on the market, DualSense-like haptic feedback thanks to a motor in the headset, a lens separation adjustment dial, and foveated rendering.
This tracks with the February 2021 announcement from Senior Vice President of Platform Planning & Management Hideaki Nishino revealing that the new headset will have a significantly better resolution, field of view, and tracking than the original headset.
As such, UploadVR’s claims seem plausible. Additionally, haptic feedback from within the headset could work well with the new DualSense-inspired VR controller Sony is developing. We reached out to Sony about this particular leak but did not receive a response. We will update this post if they respond.
If accurate, these specs would allow Sony to dominate the console-tethered VR headset market. “Sony isn’t going to compete head-to-head with the likes of Valve Index or even Quest 2,” Jijiashvili says, “namely because they’re aiming at different market segments.”.
While the new headset is trimming the setup down to just one wire, you’ll still need a PlayStation 5 to use the next PlayStation VR. It will need to come in at an affordable price during a time when the headset can claim the spotlight. Sony has not confirmed a release date or price just yet, but Jijiashvili predicts that it could launch in 2022 at a price of $399.
“Sony has already confirmed that the follow-up to PSVR will not arrive in 2021 — which I think was a logical decision, given the company’s laser focus on production and sales of the PS5 console,” Jijiashvili says. “As you may remember, PSVR 1 became a very desirable item for that all-important holiday shopping period — Sony will be hoping to replicate this with PSVR 2.”
A late 2022 release does seem very plausible for the headset, especially as it’s already confirmed. By that point, major PS5 games like Horizon Forbidden West and the next God of War will be out, giving Sony a solid game library to build upon with new VR games. Still, the price can’t go much higher than $399, even if it features expensive tech, as its success is fundamentally a PS5-tethered headset.
“The key to PSVR 1’s success was the large installed base of PS4 consoles capable of running it,” Jijiashvili says. “PSVR 2 will be pegged to the installed base of PS5, therefore its adoption will be inherently tied to the sales performance of the consoles.”
PS5 has already sold just under 8 million units, which is promising for the impending headset. Still, next-gen systems are extremely hard to find due to high demand and semi-conductor shortages impacting the tech industry. While Sony expects shortages to last through 2022, Jijiashvili doesn’t think the new VR headset will be that impacted by it.
“Based on our internal estimates, Oculus was able to effectively meet the high demand for the Quest 2 at the end of 2020,” he says. “Which leads me to believe that by the end of 2022, most of the potential VR headset production issues will be avoided.”
Omdia forecasts that the next PlayStation VR headset could sell 900,000 units in its first three months on the market, which is up from the 700,000 units the first headset sold during that same period. Still, don’t expect the next PlayStation VR headset to overtake console gaming.
In a 2020 market forecast, Jijiashvili predicted that by 2025, the VR industry could hit $4 billion in revenue, though it will still only have an adoption rate of about 3 percent in major countries by then. At that point, he assumes that the next PlayStation VR headset could sell up to 4.7 million units.
“After getting caught up in the industry hype and proving unable to live up to the unrealistic expectations set in 2016, VR is now undergoing a much-needed period of readjustment,” Jijiashvili said at the time. “Despite the persistent doom and gloom stories about the future of VR, Omdia believes that the VR market will continue to expand, albeit at a slower rate than previously anticipated.”
It’s clear that the next PlayStation VR headset will be one of the primary systems spearheading that growth. But as PlayStation President Jim Ryan told The Washington Post last year when they first teased the new headset: “We're more than a few minutes from the future of VR.”