Earlier today, Meta hosted its second annual Meta Quest Gaming Showcase, featuring a variety of announcements including a brand-new Ghostbusters VR game. The showcase sparked a spirited discussion within IGN about the Meta Quest 2’s comparative dominance of the VR market, where it currently enjoys a roughly 78 percent market share, and whether Sony’s PlayStation VR2 can be successful in such an environment.
First announced back in February 2021, the PSVR2 will reportedly focus on “console-quality” VR games for PS5 via hybrid games that can be played both with and without VR. Sony officially unveiled the new tech at CES along with its new Sense Controllers, with Sony confirming that it will feature a high-res OLED display, a controller-tracking IR camera, and four cameras in the headset itself. Horizon Call of the Mountain, which is being developed by Guerilla Games and Firesprite, is an “ambitious AAA narrative adventure” that seems to be a template for what Sony is trying to achieve on the platform, though we don’t know a full extent of the library, nor even if it will be backward compatible, just yet.
When the PSVR2 is eventually released, it will be an interesting test of whether AAA VR can draw a mainstream audience. It will also draw inevitable comparisons to Meta’s standalone headset. But can the PSVR2 succeed on its own merits? And are those comparisons even fair? Here’s what we think.
Is the PSVR2 the Next Vita?
Kat Bailey, Senior News Editor: It’s funny that we’re having this conversation right now, Taylor, because I actually just purchased a Meta Quest 2. I did so in reaction to setting up my Valve Index for some rounds of Star Wars Squadrons. It’s been used maybe once since I first bought it, and at some point it just became too much of a hassle to use a wired headset, which is why I eventually decided to spring for a Meta Quest 2.
It’s emblematic, I think, of how much the VR market has evolved since Sony first released PlayStation VR back in 2016. Even in the early days, I feel like there was awareness that VR wouldn’t take off until inexpensive, standalone headsets with high-quality screens became available on the mass market. The Meta Quest 2 cracked that code and the result is that it’s the most popular VR headset available today.
Put another way, I think the PSVR2 might end up being the VR equivalent of the PlayStation Vita. I’d love to hear your thoughts, Taylor.
Taylor Lyles, Associate Tech Editor: It’s interesting you bring that point up, Kat. I have been big on VR even before the first PlayStation VR came out. Having owned an HTC Vive and a PlayStation VR, there is certainly a lot of hassle involved with both, as they are optional accessories that require other hardware to actually function.
When I finally purchased a Meta Quest 2, I had no reason to use my HTC Vive. Not only was it a standalone headset with its own operating system that allowed me to easily access my game library, but I also had the additional option to connect my desktop to it with a USB-C cable if I wanted to play SteamVR games.
When I heard Sony announce it was making a successor to the PSVR, I was optimistic. You could argue it’s cautious optimism, given it is still an optional accessory for a still hard-to-find game console. And given the last several years, Meta and its standalone functionality has become a dominant force in the VR gaming market in the last four years. Sony is coming in at a strong disadvantage.
So given the odds against it, you’re not wrong to say PSVR2 could end up having a fate similar to the PlayStation Vita. That said, there’s a lot Sony can learn from not only the Vita’s history, but from Meta’s early successes. The PSVR2 could even push the VR market to new heights through eye tracking, haptic feedback, and adaptive triggers, despite having a design that is considered outdated for the current VR hardware market.
Kat: That’s an interesting perspective, Taylor. I think the features you just listed can definitely make for a more immersive experience, particularly the eye tracking. That said, I suppose I bring up the Vita because the PSVR2’s potential focus on console-quality games makes me think of Sony’s fixation on the AAA handheld experience while Nintendo mostly focused on affordability, battery life, and smaller-scale experiences that fit well on portable devices with the 3DS. The PSVR2 is also at the mercy of how much support Sony decides to put behind it, both in terms of marketing and in terms of software support.
In deciding to go with a wired rather than a standalone solution, it seems to me that Sony is explicitly favoring power over accessibility with the PSVR2. That’s fine, but I’m not sure the appeal of God of War or Horizon in VR outweighs the inconvenience of being wired at this point. It’s on Sony to prove that these specific experiences are worth the expense and hassle of a wired headset.
I’ll grant that there’s certainly a hunger for high-end VR experiences, as Half-Life Alyx has shown. But when I see Sony pushing a successor to a modestly successful device that is seemingly billed as being “bigger and more” versus a less advanced but more accessible competitor, I think to myself, “We’ve been down this road before, haven’t we?”
Taylor: PlayStation’s seeming focus on power is not just about graphical fidelity or making things look as photorealistic as possible in virtual reality, though. It is about propelling virtual reality gaming as a more mainstream option as well as enhancing how people interact with those games.
When you think about the PSVR2’s unique features, it sets up the potential to push VR gaming to new heights. The PSVR2 will have eye-tracking, and its Sense Controllers will feature haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. These features have the potential to offer more immersive experiences that bring gamers closer to the games they play. Even just looking at the Sense Controllers’ design alone shows Sony learned a lot from its first VR hardware outing. We won’t be relying on Move controllers from the PS3 era any longer!
It has a chance to not only further immerse you in genres and worlds you know well, but also breathe new life into those that have languished in the traditional console and PC marketplaces, like on-rail shooters and sports sims.
Also, I’m afraid I have to disagree with calling PSVR a “modestly successful device.” While selling more than 5 million units does not sound like a lot, you have to keep in mind VR is still a niche category, particularly when the PSVR first released and amassed most of its sales. As the first console-exclusive headset, a strong case can be made that the PSVR helped project VR gaming more into the mainstream. Meta’s Quest has certainly reached more players, but when looking at the VR market as it was when the PSVR initially launched – filled as it was with unwieldy headsets like the HTC Vive – it was quite successful in getting more people to try VR gaming.
Kat: I think you’re right about VR being able to showcase compelling virtual worlds. Half-Life: Alyx has certainly shown the potential for VR to be really special in that regard. That said, the ongoing success of Job Simulator and Beat Saber has shown that a game doesn’t really need to be a VR powerhouse showcase to succeed. I would even argue those are the dominant VR experiences at the moment, and they are perfect Meta Quest 2.
You also mentioned that the PSVR sold more than 5 million units, which to me still seems pretty small in light of the PS4’s install base of more than 115 million units, its comparatively attractive price point, and the heavy marketing push it received at launch. I’m wondering if you think it can compare to the Quest 2’s sales, or if the PSVR 2 can match or exceed the PSVR’s original total given the more mature market and what is currently a much smaller install base for the PlayStation 5, which still appears to be hamstrung by supply chain issues. And if it doesn’t, is there some other way that the PSVR 2 can be a success?
Meta Quest 2 remains polarizing
Taylor: I believe the PSVR2’s success will not be measured against whether it outsells the Meta Quest 2. Because I don’t think it will, and I don’t think it needs to, either.
The measurement of its success will be how it takes advantage of the technology introduced with the PS5. Developers need to make games that will take full advantage of the new tech coming out of the PSVR2 and the Sense Controllers, which are a logical next step from the DualSense. They don’t necessarily need to convince Quest 2 owners to buy a PS5 and a PSVR2; they just need to convince the limited base that owns a PS5 to invest in the headset.
More first-party developed and published games will also help with its success. Horizon Call of the Mountain is a good start, and sequels to PSVR exclusives Astro Bot: Rescue Mission and Firewall: Zero Hour would go a long way as well. Even better is if it can secure some major VR games that never came to PSVR, like, say, Half-Life: Alyx, a game you can technically play on the Meta Quest 2.
And while the PSVR2 is still debuting at a disadvantage to the Quest 2 because it is tethered to a console, Meta is still a polarizing company right now. If you look at Meta in recent years and the controversies its subsidiary Facebook has encountered, there are many people distrustful of Meta as a company. Some are refusing to buy a Quest 2 because it still requires a Facebook account despite Meta’s promises to the contrary
Is the Facebook account thing grasping at straws? I suppose if you have a Facebook account, which I do. But let’s say I got banned or just wanted to delete my Facebook account, oh well I just burned through $299+ because I cannot access my Quest 2 or any of the games I own on it.
Kat: I think my concerns over its chances at success are less about the Meta Quest 2 itself and more about the direction of PSVR 2’s actual design. I’m convinced standalone headsets are the future for VR, and even if the PSVR 2 is more powerful and includes superior features like haptic controllers, it still feels like a bit of a regression in that respect. But you’re right, how much PlayStation decides to support the PSVR 2 will be a major piece of the puzzle. If it has a true killer app you can’t play anywhere else, it will find an audience, and being the one and only console-exclusive headset remains a strong selling point (no, I don’t count the Nintendo Switch VR headset, sorry).
We’ll know soon enough whether Sony’s first-party developers are willing to invest major resources into a platform that’s bound to have a comparatively small install base to the console, at least to start. Either way, if we do actually get a sequel to Astro Bot Rescue Mission, I’ll call the PSVR2 a win.
The PlayStation VR 2 does not yet have a release date. For more information, check out how the PSVR2 stacks up against the original PlayStation VR, Quest 2, and Valve Index, as well as our list of the best PSVR games.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.
Taylor is the Associate Tech Editor at IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @TayNixster.