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PSVR Brought Virtual Reality To The Masses

Illustration for article titled PSVR Brought Virtual Reality To The Masses
Photo: Sony / Kotaku
The Last GenerationThe Last GenerationA look back at 2013-2020, the age of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Virtual reality has become much easier to jump into these days. Headsets are becoming cheaper and cheaper and some, like the Quest 2, don’t even need a powerful PC. But not that long ago VR was expensive, hard to hook up, and a mess. And PSVR was an imperfect but exciting solution.

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On paper, PSVR sounded too good to be true. Launched in 2016, it cost only $400. That might sound like a lot, but other headsets at the time cost around $500-700 or more and required beefy, expensive PCs. This wasn’t the case with PSVR. Anyone who already owned a PS4, even that old dusty one in your basement you didn’t use anymore, would be able to buy a VR headset and start playing virtual reality games in their living room.

In reality, it wasn’t all great. The headset was already a bit behind tech-wise when it was released and within a few years became even older and more outdated. The camera and light tracking system it used, while cheap and easy to set up, was also prone to failure and wasn’t very accurate. And the motion controllers were fine, but not nearly as advanced as other VR controllers, especially the ones that would follow in 2017, 2018, etc.

But you know what? None of that mattered.

Because when I booted up that headset and slipped it on, I was shocked to be in a whole new digital world. I remember inviting people over and having them play the Spider-Man: Homecoming VR demo or that weird but funny Job Simulator game. We all had a blast. People were surprised by how much fun they were having in VR, even though they had assumed it would be too much. Others were sold on something they had assumed was a gimmick.

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As time went on, PSVR became less exciting and new, but it was still a solid way to experience VR games, including some PlayStation exclusive titles, like the wonderful Astro Bot Rescue Mission. (Seriously, it’s an amazing game and one of the best VR games ever made.) Across Reddit and forums, I watched players who, fed up with PSVR’s shortcomings or lack of software, would jump to newer and more powerful headsets. Some even started developing PC VR games they wanted to play. I imagine a lot of people were turned on to VR and what it can do thanks to that cheap, accessible headset Sony released back in 2016.

Today, in 2020, Sony treats PSVR like something they once loved but don’t know what to do with anymore. Sure it will work on PS5, but it’s not easy to hook up. (Though the PSVR was never an easy or simple thing to hook up, especially that early model and the first breakout box, which had all the extra wires.) Rumors have swirled that Sony has plans for a PSVR2, something more powerful and with better tracking and more advanced controllers.

Illustration for article titled PSVR Brought Virtual Reality To The Masses
Screenshot: Sony

I hope so. Because PSVR brought VR to the masses, with over 5 million headsets sold as of last year. There’s no doubt in my mind it helped push VR gaming forward and a potential PSVR2 could have a similar impact. And would probably work better too!

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As I write this, it’s been a few weeks since I moved my PS4 out of my office and with it the PSVR headset and gear. I still love my PSVR headset. But... I’ve also not used my PSVR headset in a few months. However, I have fond memories of loading up new games on it and being awed by my first hours with real modern VR. I also remember annoying controllers and other small and big issues that never got fixed or improved. But I’m so happy that millions of people got to experience VR and it’s helped move virtual reality gaming forward and in the process, it ended up creating a whole new group of people hungry and ready for more VR games. Even if Sony doesn’t get around to offering any in the near future, that’s a good thing for VR gaming.

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Kotaku Weekend Editor | Zack Zwiezen is a writer living in Kansas. He has written for GameCritics, USgamer, Kill Screen & Entertainment Fuse.

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DISCUSSION

krikokriko
Cobrasoul

For me, VR on the PC has been just too expensive and/or cumbersome to set up (no beacons, please and IPD-adjustment on the headset is a must), but the PSVR seemed to strike the correct balance.

I really hope Sony does a PSVR2, because they have the right hardware skills apparently to get it right for a decent price, especially controllers with haptic improvements similar to the PS5 controller would be sublime. Recently got a chance to try Half Life: Alyx, and it got me excited again for a decent but inexpensive VR set...