2016 is the dawn of consumer virtual reality, and Sony is in a prime position to dominate the early market. People who have tried the early prototypes seem enamoured with the technology, and if the price is right, VR will be much more accessible on PS4 than the competing devices from HTC and Facebook.
All the tech specs sound great, and I couldn’t be more excited to try the helmet on for myself. But, there is one huge thing that seems to be missing.
Where are the games I actually want to play?
At the Tokyo Game Show, Sony announced a list of PS4 games in development with the VR headset that include:
- Among The Sleep
- The Assembly
- The Castle
- Cult County
- The Deep
- Eve Valkyrie
- Final Fantasy XIV
- Five Nights at Freddy’s 2
- Jurassic Encounter
- Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
- London Heist
- Magic Controller
- Project CARS
- Shadow of the Beast
- Street Luge
- Surgeon Simulator
- Summer Lesson
- The Toybox
- War Thunder
It’s a long list, but is it impressive? Take a look at the first game on the list, as an example. Among The Sleep is a horror game that puts you in the body of a toddler in a dark and scary house. Sounds like a pretty cool concept, right? But I’m willing to bet the whole experience will last an hour or two, at most. And don’t expect much in the way of actual gameplay either – these early VR games seem content to mostly just let you look around and explore their virtual worlds.
Maybe I’m wrong, but to me most of these “games” don’t look like anything more than extended tech demos. There are a few genuine games on the list (Final Fantasy, Thief – how did you get there?), but to what extent they use the virtual reality is unclear at this point.
We’ve been down this road before
While virtual reality is undoubtedly new, there’s an obvious parallel here. Both PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift are peripherals that will allow a new way for players to interact with games. One is for PlayStation, the other is for Xbox. There’s a lot of hype surrounding both products, and a lot of tech journalists and bloggers seem wowed when they try them.
It should - a few years back, Nintendo hit it big with the Wii. People went nuts, and the console sold like hotcakes. The other companies wanted to get in on the action - Sony developed PlayStation Move, which could be used in conjunction with the PlayStation Eye, and Microsoft developed the Kinect for Xbox. There was a lot of hype, and a lot of people seemed wowed by the technology.
But while motion controls were good for very specific types of gameplay, there were almost no quality, in-depth games that used them in any meaningful way. People bought these peripherals on the promise that they would revolutionize gaming, and they were left with nothing but a couple of (admittedly fun) party games and a sour taste in their mouths.
Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice…
When the VR revolution was just starting to bubble, I thought companies were going to treat the new helmets like consoles. These are new pieces of technology, and all sorts of games and experiences could be developed specifically for them.
Because Sony is treating the tech like a peripheral, I’m wary. I’ve been burned before. If this technology is going to catch on, they need serious games developers to develop actual games (not just tech demos) that we can get excited about. More No Man’s Sky, The Last Of Us 2, Call of Duty: Modern Whatever – less Surgeon Simulators, please.
The promise is there, but I think unless someone decides to jump feet-first in, it will be awhile still before it feels like an actual revolution.