Virtual reality is expensive, y'all.
Facebook's Oculus Rift?
HTC and Valve's Vive?
This stuff is, in fairness, the bleeding edge of high-end virtual reality. So after dropping north of five hundred big ones on just the headset, you'll need a bleeding edge gaming PC to power it. And that's if you have the space in your house to actually use this stuff.
Sony, however, has an alternate solution: It's called PlayStation VR.
You and 36 million of your best friends already own PlayStation 4 game consoles, right? Right. So all you need, in addition to that PS4 game console you already own, is a headset and a camera for tracking your movements. Hooray!
Simply plug PlayStation VR into your living room's PlayStation 4 and jump in. It's that easy.
But Sony's headset is no toy. It's using tech that's a baby step below the level of stuff like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. And that means expensive stuff in this case. Sony, however, hasn't given a price just yet.
What's in the PlayStation 4 VR headset?
Lots of stuff! Here's the full list:
- 5.7-inch OLED display with 1920 x RGB x 1080 resolution (960 x RGB x 1080 in each eye)
- 120 Hz refresh rate ("super low latency," under 18 milliseconds)
- 100-degree field of view
- Accelerometer and gyroscope
- Positional tracking handled by nine LED lights, 3D audio (spatial audio)
- HDMI / USB ports
Forgive us if that looks like a bunch of jargon. It is a bunch of jargon, but there are a few important bits in there that elucidate why PlayStation VR is going to cost so much.
First and foremost, the screen: A 5.7-inch OLED screen is pricey. Heck, OLED screens in general are pricey, nonetheless large ones with high refresh rates and high resolutions (like this one).
Throw in a few sensors (the accelerometer and gyroscope) and lenses that give it a 100-degree field of view and you've got yourself a potentially very expensive peripheral.
What's Sony saying about pricing? Surely representatives have said something, right?
So... yes and no.
The line that Sony representatives have been giving about price is telling: PlayStation VR will be "priced as a new gaming platform." What does that mean?
Well, the PlayStation 4 - Sony's newest "gaming platform" - cost $400 when it launched back in 2013. The price has come down slightly (to $350) since launch, but that's still plenty of money. By comparison, Microsoft's Xbox One cost a whopping $500 at launch. Nintendo's Wii U cost anywhere from $300 to $350.
Following that "priced as a new gaming platform" logic, PlayStation VR will cost between $300 and $500. The difference, of course, is perception.
In buying a new game console, consumers can justify the high price by saying, "It's also a Netflix box! It also plays Blu-ray discs! It's entertainment for the whole family!" But in buying something like PlayStation VR - a peripheral that requires a PlayStation 4 to work - that justification doesn't exist.
Even if that $300 to $500 price includes the cost of a PlayStation 4 Camera ($60 value) and a PlayStation Move motion controller ($40 value), the average person is still looking at a huge price tag for a new, unproven medium.
I've used PlayStation 4's VR headset a bunch of times now over the past few years.
It is, indeed, a truly impressive experience, offering high-end VR in a turnkey solution. That's a hell of a lot more than I can say for Facebook and HTC's ridiculously expensive, bleeding-edge offerings. At the same time, $300 to $500 is a lot of money for anyone, regardless of what you're getting in return.
Regardless of any of this, we'll find out the price and release date soon enough: Sony's PlayStation arm is holding a big PlayStation VR media event next week in San Francisco during the annual Game Developers Conference. Tech Insider will be there, reporting live, gesticulating wildly from within the confines of a Sony-developed VR headset. And hopefully - hopefully! - we'll get some final answers on this stuff.