The process of setting up PlayStation VR was a little surreal. Peering down into the box, I couldn’t believe I was actually looking at a tangible product. For the past few years, the conversation around virtual reality as a consumer product — specifically, its viability as such — seemed to always precede talk about it as an actual experience. Without an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift in my home, I had come to think of VR as technology on the level of science fiction: perhaps possible someday, but doomed to our imaginations for now.
There was a childlike joy, then, in watching the sci-fi-esque blue lights of the PlayStation VR’s headset beam on. “This is real,” I was forced to acknowledge at last. “Virtual reality is actually being sold to people around the world.” But my wonder aside, there are still plenty of important questions to ask about PlayStation VR, and about the viability of mainstream virtual reality as a whole.
I’ll provide the answers to many of the most pressing inquiries about the former, but I think it’s still a bit too early to address the latter at this point. The exciting thing is, of course, that PSVR makes virtual reality more accessible than it ever has been before.
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The Price Is (Mostly) Right
The key part of PSVR’s accessibility is, of course, its price tag. The two bundles — Launch and Core — currently come in at $499.99 and $399.99, respectively, significantly undercutting their closest competitors (the $599 Rift and $799 Vive). That’s especially true when you consider the kind of high-end gaming rigs the other headsets require, the prices of which are astronomically high compared to the now-$299.99 PlayStation 4 (or even the upcoming PS4 Pro, which will run you $100 more).
Value-wise, I think both sets are well-worth their current asking prices; my main concern is with the included content in each bundle. With the Launch version, you get everything you need to experience all PSVR has to offer, including the PlayStation Camera, a pair of Move controllers and obligatory launch minigame collection PlayStation VR Worlds.
On the other hand, the Core version only comes with the headset, processor unit and all the many, many cables you need for setup. That’s fine for folks like me who have Move controllers and a Camera handy, but it might strike consumers as dishonest to sell a bundle without the latter item, which is absolutely required to use the device. Still, a little research goes a long way, and there’s no denying both bundles are the cheapest way to get into high-quality, home-ready VR right now.
Things do get a little more tricky when it comes to the pricing of the games, however. In the case of strong experiences like Thumper and Rez Infinite, $19.99 and $29.99 respectively seem like great prices for the bursts of visceral excitement you’re getting — with excellent visuals and replay value, these are among the strongest launch titles on the platform (more on that later).
Some of these other early VR “experiences,” though, leave a lot to be desired when it comes to the value equation. Batman: Arkham VR might be initially exciting, but I have a sinking feeling that many purchasers will come to regret dropping $20 on such a limited, one-and-done deal — particularly with the pedigree that series carries. I think there are still plenty more great games to prevent the average consumer from dismissing VR as a gimmicky ripoff, but I also know that not all of them are as patient as I am.