PS VR2 on Year One: Not great, not terrible

Sony’s virtual reality system for the PS5 may be a failure in progress, but it’s important that it fights on. Here’s why.


The PlayStation VR2 has been out for a year now. Did it meet Sony’s and, more importantly, consumers’ expectations during that time or is it fair to say that things did not play out that way? (Image: Triyansh Gill, Unsplash)


It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a whole year since the PlayStation VR2 was released, yet here we are: Sony’s virtual reality peripheral for the PS5 launched on February 22nd 2023, along with around 40 games and a rather divisive $549 price tag, amid generally positive but not glowing reviews by various outlets.

Yours truly really liked it but, just like several other reviewers did at the time, pointed out that the PS VR2 would only succeed if it offered enough compelling, preferably exclusive, games within its first 18 months of availability. Otherwise it would be easy to dismiss as a technologically impressive but ultimately limited successor to the original PS VR which, all things considered, did not do bad at all for a first-generation peripheral.

So there’s already been 12 months since the PS VR2 was made available in all major markets. What has it accomplished so far? How have things played out in terms of software support and general consumer interest? What does its future look like based on its first year on the market? Let’s take a look at all that, shall we?

No sales figures and lack of excitement a concern

First things first: in terms of what the PS VR2 has accomplished commercially during its first year of availability, it’s rather difficult to form or express an opinion because… well, very few people seem to know with any degree of certainty how many units Sony has been able to sell so far. The company has not disclosed sales figures since last May – when it claimed that almost 600.000 units have been purchased during the product’s first six weeks of availability – and analysts seem uncertain about whether the PS VR2 has actually surpassed the 1 million mark in sales at any point during 2023.

In this particular case it’s also difficult to make an educated guess based on sales numbers offered by traditional or online retailers, because the PS VR2 can also be purchased directly from the official PlayStation e-shop (in fact that was initially the easiest or even the only way to get one). Still, it’s obviously not a good sign that while Sony makes sure to announce every milestone hit e.g. by the PS5, it has not reported any sales numbers regarding the PS VR2 for almost 9 months.

Even if the company’s VR peripheral has indeed sold more than one million units so far, it still wouldn’t be called a runaway success – not when the PS5 is currently closing in on 55 million units sold worldwide. The PS5-to-PS VR2 ratio would simply be too low, even when taking that price tag into account.

What may be an even bigger problem for PS VR2 than its actual sales is the apparent lack of excitement around the product.

What may be an even bigger problem for Sony than the actual sales numbers of the PSVR2, especially long-term, is the apparent lack of excitement or even general interest around the product in most mainstream and even gaming-focused outlets: apart from the odd reveal or release announcement there are just not an awful lot of stories or reports on the PS VR2 published across the Web.

Even the official PlayStation blog does not offer more than a handful of PS VR2-related posts every month, which speaks volumes. One would have to frequently visit specialized websites about VR/AR (like Mixed for instance) in order to find more stories about the PS VR2. Again, not only does this speak volumes, but it’s also indicative of the way Sony’s product has more or less cornered itself into a niche. More on that in a minute.

The killer app problem still a thing

In terms of software support – which would always play an important part in the success or failure of the PS VR2 as a virtual reality platform – things did not play out as well as Sony needed them to. On one hand, the PS VR2 launch line-up was good enough, offering a handful of high-quality titles, a number of interesting ones and decent variety overall. On the other hand, that good line-up was not followed by a steady enough stream of exceptional, desirable or even notable games for the PS VR2 during the next six months: apart from four specific, excellent titles – namely Synapse, C-Smash VRS, Red Matter 2 and Pistol Whip – most of the others just didn’t hit that level of quality or originality that would generate excitement around Sony’s new VR platform.

C-Smash VRS may have a fairly steep learning curve in terms of its control system but it remains one of the most exciting – and most stylish – virtual reality entertainment experiences out there. (Image: RapidEyeMovers)


PS VR2 owners had to wait for no less than four more months or so before another notable, true AAA-level title – Arizona Sunshine 2 in December – became available to play. Yes, there were dozens of other releases in the meantime, but the vast majority of those were either predictable, mediocre affairs or just modest upgrades to PS VR titles or typical ports from versions developed for other VR platforms. Even the largely overhyped Firewall Ultra – one of only a handful of PS VR2 exclusives appearing in 2023 and one that Sony Interactive Entertainment itself chose to publish – left much to be desired, setting the bar of expectations rather low for the rest of the year.

Sony’s minimal contribution to the PS VR2 library has proven to be a big problem, too – in terms of public perception, obviously, as well as in terms of exclusive AAA firepower. What may have hurt the chances of the latest PS VR even more, though, was the apparent absence of enough original, innovative titles available for it: examples of new types of games that the additional processing power of the PS5 and the extra functionality of the PS VR2 made possible, smart enough and exciting enough to attract the interest of more people. Almost every PS VR2 production out there falls into one of five or six different, but oddly specific, categories. It is as if developers are positively scared of experimenting further or adamantly determined to not stray far from what they believe PS VR2 owners will be interested in playing.

The PS VR2 is largely viewed as a vastly improved version of the original PS VR – not a new, hugely promising, groundbreaking VR platform.

Even taking the high costs and big risk of developing games for a new VR platform into account, though, this approach simply does not help Sony’s product or even virtual reality as an entertainment medium to thrive. The PS VR2 is largely viewed as a vastly improved version of the original PS VR but not a hugely promising, groundbreaking VR platform. That’s more or less to be expected, because it is the games that define a platform – and this is exactly what the PS VR2 has mostly offered up until now: smoother, shinier, better versions of what we’ve all played before. The concept of “the killer app” or “system seller” for consoles – of a game so desirable that people are buying into a platform just to play that particular title – may seem old-fashioned by 2024 standards… but that’s precisely what the PS VR2 needs in order to attract consumer attention and sales.

It’s definitely not easy to define, design and develop such a game, granted, but that’s exactly what would actually help Sony’s new platform establish a strong market presence in the future. With that in mind, it’s just disheartening to see that most of the current “best games for the PS VR2” lists out there still mainly consist of either launch titles – such as GT7 VR, Horizon Call of the Mountain and Demeo – or ports of past PlayStation hits getting the PS VR2 treatment (such as Resident Evil Village or Beat Saber or Resident Evil 4). Where will that much-needed, groundbreaking “killer app” VR entertainment experience come from, if more than 18 months of PS VR2 game development seem to imply that maybe we’re asking too much of the PS5-PS VR2 combination already?

It’s great that the PS VR2 exists, but Sony should do more

Despite the fact that the first 12 months of Sony’s second-generation virtual reality product on the market were not exactly ideal, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are over 30 new PS VR2 games with confirmed release dates until June 2024, for instance, with over 50 more already announced to be in development: by this time next year there will probably be around 250 PS VR2 titles available to consumers, which is nothing to scoff at. Not all titles will be of notable quality, yes, but a VR software library of enough variety and depth would greatly help Sony’s new platform become more attractive to more consumers than it currently is.

The PlayStation VR2 is a very, very good product that deserves a fair chance at succeeding. Sony can and should do more to help it along, not just in terms of promotion or advertising, but also in terms of first-party software support. (Image: Triyansh Gill, Unsplash)


Sony also confirmed that, at some point during 2024, they’ll be adding “the ability for PS VR2 players to access additional games on PC, in order to offer even more game variety in addition to the PS VR2 titles available through PS5”. It’s not yet clear what this would mean in practical terms, but if Sony’s product is somehow able to access games developed for other VR platforms – say, via proper PC drivers and an effective emulation layer – it could prove to be a huge selling point for the PS VR2 going forward.

Furthermore, there’s always the possibility that the second year of PS VR2 will bear more fruit when it comes to better, bolder games for the system. There are clear indications that the state of development software for the PS VR2 pre-launch was less than ideal and that a lot of developers practically had to test their work after the product’s release last February. Things have improved in that department since then, developers now have a better idea of what the PS VR2 can do and how its unique features work, there are way more examples of advanced interactivity and various gameplay concepts already implemented out there, so hopefully the second wave of titles for Sony’s will offer more interesting takes on what a modern VR game could be.

No matter how interesting PS VR2 games built by third-party developers may turn out to be, they can’t do all of Sony’s work for it.

Having said all that, there’s still no getting around the fact that if Sony truly cares for the PS VR2 – even as a niche product – then the company will have to step up in 2024. Its first-party studios will have to offer at least a few high-quality, daring, impressive PS VR2 games that prove Sony’s commitment to this platform and belief in its prospects. It will also have to promote this system in a meaningful, consistent manner: right now it almost seems as if the company has all but forgotten about it. No matter how interesting those PS VR2 games that third-party developers are building may turn out to be, they can’t do all of Sony’s work for it. Simply put, if the company actually wants to see the PS VR2 succeed in the long term, then it will have to support it accordingly.

At the end of the day, the PS VR2 may very well turn out to be a failure in progress: a valiant effort, of sorts, that never really had a chance of great commercial success to begin with. But it’s truly important for the AR/VR market that this product exists: it’s the most affordable way to enjoy some truly high-quality virtual reality experiences, it’s the easiest to set up and use, it’s squarely focused on games – which, at this point, is actually a good thing – and it’s the only product in its category associated with a brand as powerful as that of the PlayStation.

The PS VR2 may not be perfect, but it’s still a very, very good product. It has a lot of potential and it deserves a fair chance at succeeding. Here’s hope, then, that Sony will actually give it that chance. Because if the company doesn’t, then nobody else will.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Kostas Farkonas

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

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