Is it too little too late for Sony’s PS VR2?
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Friday, we’re taking a look at how the virtual reality market has changed since Sony released its last headset, as well as what to read, watch and play this weekend.
Sony is banking on a second life for tethered VR
Sony still has its sights set on virtual reality, with a new iteration of the PlayStation VR headset due out later this year. While the company has been tight-lipped about its plans so far, choosing only to reveal small bits of information and hardware renders, it finally revealed the full device this week, confirming it does indeed require a cable tethered to a PlayStation 5.
It’s a risky gamble on Sony’s part. The PlayStation owner is now banking on having a robust enough PS5 consumer base amid supply shortages to sell the headset, while also relying on its exclusivity-based gaming strategy to draw potential VR customers away from more open, versatile headset platforms with far richer software libraries.
Sony is entering a very different VR market than it did in 2016. The most popular headset on the market today is Meta’s Quest 2, a wireless standalone device that does not require you own an expensive and hard-to-find piece of hardware to operate it.
- Shipments of standalone VR headsets accounted for nearly 90% of the VR market as of December 2021, according to IDC. And of that market, Meta has 75% market share.
- Meta has reoriented its entire business around the metaverse, a core pillar of which includes AR and VR, and Meta is willing to spend its way to victory. The company took a loss of $10 billion last year on its Reality Labs efforts, after a $6.6 billion loss in 2020.
- While Sony’s original PS VR headset sold more than 5 million units as of late 2019, Meta has already shipped an estimated 10 million units of the Quest 2 since October 2020.
Tethered VR has been on the way out for some time. Sony dominated the early VR market in part because its headset ran on the PlayStation 4 console and didn’t require users to own a powerful and expensive gaming PC in addition to a pricey headset from Oculus, HTC or Valve.
- Priced at $299.99, Sony’s original PS VR made a much more appealing pitch to consumers interested in VR on a budget. The PlayStation platform also became the home to VR ports of popular games like No Man’s Sky, Skyrim and Tetris Effect.
- The introduction of the Quest in May 2019 brought standalone VR into the mainstream at an affordable price. Over the next two years and after the release of the Quest 2, standalone VR began to overtake the market.
- The Quest 2 is now the most-used headset on the market, capturing nearly half of all VR usage, according to the January 2022 Steam Hardware Survey.
Sony has a PS5 problem. The company still can’t make its PS5 console fast enough to meet demand. That’s bad news for the PS VR2.
- The new headset will require the console to power more-advanced VR games and the headset’s new feature set, including improved resolution and frame rates and inside-out body and hand tracking.
- For PlayStation VR2 to be competitive with high-end VR headsets like the Valve Index and HP Reverb G2, it needs these higher-end features. But that will also constrain the available market to only the 17 million or so people who’ve managed to buy the new console, instead of the nearly 120 million PS4 owners or the near-limitless market for standalone VR.
- Sony has only confirmed a single new launch game, a Horizon Zero Dawn spinoff, for the new headset. It’s not clear what kind of content strategy the company will pursue going forward, and whether it plans to build out an exclusive library or try and port existing VR games to the platform.
VR is certainly far from a zero-sum market right now, although Meta’s success with the Quest lineup seems to suggest the competition will only become fiercer. There are still VR enthusiasts who want the best resolution and most high-fidelity graphics that tethered VR can offer, be it from a Valve device, an HP headset or potentially the new PS VR2.
But Sony’s approach to VR doesn't right now reflect the changing realities of the market, especially as it struggles to deliver enough of the consoles consumers will need to even be eligible to power on and use its new headset. Depending on the price point and launch slate, PS VR2 could be another sleeper hit for Sony, like its first crack at VR. Or it could be too little too late as Meta’s standalone VR segment continues to swallow the whole market.
— Nick Statt
A MESSAGE FROM INTEL
New process control technologies and improved operational efficiencies will deliver the necessary quality, precision and cost-effectiveness to move next-gen therapeutics forward. This can only be achieved if the industry embraces the shift to smart manufacturing, particularly with the use of IoT and edge applications.
TGIF: How to spend your weekend
“Cat Burglar” — Netflix. From the people who brought you “Black Mirror” comes a goofy interactive cartoon in the style of “Tom & Jerry” that is as nonsensical as it is violent. Most of the multiple-choice questions have no rhyme or reason to them, but it’s still fun to play through the story and see whether you can help the unlucky cat burglar steal the treasure. But is it a game? Or a show? Turns out there’s no wrong answer for that one.
“Inhabiting the Negative Space” — Sternberg Press. I was a big fan of Jenny Odell’s 2019 book “How to do nothing: Resisting the attention economy.” This 2021 followup is the transcript of her 2020 commencement speech for Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. In many ways, it also serves as a kind of CliffsNotes version of “How to do nothing,” updated with a few thoughts on the pandemic that forced us all to do a whole lot less.
“Severance” — Apple TV+. Ever felt like you’re turning into a different person when your workday begins? That’s very much true for the protagonists of “Severance,” a new Apple TV+ sci-fi drama in which people are undergoing a procedure to permanently sever their work selves from their personal lives. Creepy, weird and utterly fascinating.
“Inside Pornhub” — The Verge. A former content moderator, whose job also involved tweeting dirty jokes, talks about the early days of the porn empire. A nuanced and necessary look at a company that’s dominated online porn for more than a decade.
“Namoo” — HBO Max. Erick Oh’s beautiful animated short film “Namoo” previously debuted in VR, and a 2D version found its way to HBO Max at the end of January. The film tells the story of a man’s journey through life, visualized through a tree, and reminds us to pay attention to what’s important in these uncertain times.
— Janko Roettgers
A MESSAGE FROM INTEL
As we move into a world after COVID-19, the biopharma industry must understand how to maintain this incredible pace of innovation without forfeiting precision or quality. Smart manufacturing — otherwise known as Industry 4.0 — converges IoT, software-defined infrastructure, advanced analytics and AI to create more flexible and interoperable digital manufacturing platforms.
Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your day, see you Tuesday.