Written by: Thomas Hyde
With GDC on this week, we’ve been hearing some interesting things about tons of games, but probably the most exciting thing we’ve heard about is actually a hardware piece, and I of course mean the release date for Playstation VR, which wasn’t fully unexpected, considering Sony used GDC 2014 to announce the project from the start. Sony has announced that their proprietary VR headset is going to be released in October of this year for $399 American, and $549 Canadian which are fairly standard prices for the launch of PlayStation hardware.
According to Sony, October is a bit later than they wanted to launch the headset, but they decided to push the release back in order to release with a wide variety of content, so as not to follow the stigma around previous console releases having no games, like the PS3. Sony also wants to ensure that they have enough supply so they won’t be sold out all too quickly, meaning there won’t be a repeat of Wii or WiiU hunts for the Playstation VR.
Sony is promising a lineup of 50 games between the headset’s release in October and the end of the year. Some titles that are in the lineup during that 3 month period are Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed tie-in Eagle Flight, Rigs: Mechanized Combat League from Sony themselves, Rez Infinite, EVE: Valkyrie, and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, all things we’ve seen before, or that we’ve heard a bit about.
Some things we hadn’t heard about until now are Uber Entertainment’s Wayward Sky, Headmaster from Frame Interactive as well as the Sony originals PlayStation VR Worlds, and The Playroom VR which will be a free download on launch that includes six games that showcase VR capabilities. Finally what may be one of the more exciting titles, they announced that DICE and EA would be working on giving Star Wars: Battlefront VR support exclusive to Playstation VR with more news to follow before long.
As of right now, over 230 developers ranging from triple A studios to smaller indie studios are working on content for the Playstation VR, meaning that the list of games we’ve heard about is only the beginning of what’s to come for the hardware. All things told it seems like Sony is making a wise decision in trying to ensure that rather than trying to push the Playstation VR out before competitors, it’s trying to make sure that it launches with the widest range of content, so that even coming out a bit later it’ll be coming out at full force to challenge the platforms that’ll be out almost half a year earlier.
Another exciting feature of the Playstation VR is unrelated to gaming, which is the “Cinematic Mode” a mode that will be dedicated to movies and videos on the Playstation VR’s virtual screen. The Cinematic Mode will let you to play PlayStation games that don’t have VR support, as well as videos and a “variety of PS4 features” including Share Play, and Live from PlayStation broadcasts on the device.
This essentially means that it can be used as a monitor for non-VR environments, along with it’s original capabilities. Sony also mentions that the 360 degree videos that are becoming more and more popular on mobile devices will work with the VR headset. All things said, the virtual screen will come out to a staggering 225 inches, dwarfing anything but a movie theater.
The final product will be bundled with the headset, adaptors, a secondary processing unit, a pair of headphones, and all necessary cabling, but it won’t include a few intrinsic items, like the Playstation camera, which is used to track the lights on the headset for positioning, or Playstation move controllers which are required for some movement based games, although most developers seem to be making games that’ll work with the standard six-axis controller.
Despite this, even after purchasing those the whole system will come in cheaper than the Oculus Rift, or any other comparable VR system, and it’s likely that all that was announced is the base package, and there will be bundles that come with the camera and at least one move controller on release. Playstation VR will be releasing slightly after other VR systems that are on the radar, with The Rift from Oculus available March 28th, and The Vive from HTC and Valve coming April 5th, however as mentioned, the Playstation VR will be two-hundred dollars cheaper than the next cheapest piece of VR hardware, in addition to the fact that it’ll be a lot cheaper to get a PS4, if you don’t already have one, than it would be to get a PC that can handle the games that’d be available for other platforms.
The extra processing unit will also be able to be connected to a secondary monitor or output device to give a relative display of what’s going on in game, so others can watch what you’re experiencing and understand why you’re sitting there jumping around and acting like a fool with this headset.
The main body of PlayStation VR is a black curved visor, with white edging, that’ll have LED’s built in to light it up. The headset will use a strap that will run all the way round the head. Unlike the Vive and Oculus Rift, there won’t be a strap running from the front to the back of the head, instead it’ll be replaced by a little cap which will extend from the top of the visor to help hold it on securely. Also, the headset doesn’t have built in headphones like it’s competitors, so you can choose to use the ones it comes bundled with, your own set, or the audio from your tv or sound system, giving you a wider range of options than other VR systems. And the headset looks extremely sleek, like something you’d see out of Deus Ex or Mass Effect, a serious piece of sci-fi chic.
As far as the specs of the hardware, the headset itself will measure about 7.3 inches wide by 7.3 inches high by 11 inches long, and will weigh just under a pound and a half, before connecting cabling, which shouldn’t make a ton of difference. The headset will have a 5.7-inch screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, which will cover both eyes, providing a field of view that will come out to about 100-degrees.
The screen will also have a bit of clearance from the face, and won’t have a complete seal, which Sony says will help to reduce cases of motion sickness and nausea. The headset will have a six-axis motion sensing system, the same type that Playstation’s sixaxis controllers use, and nine LEDs that will let the PlayStation’s camera identify where players are looking, including some on the back so when they’re facing away from the camera it’ll still be able to tell where they’re looking. Finally, Sony is claiming that the system will have less than 18 milliseconds of latency, so everything should be smooth sailing as far as input speed goes.
The headsets health and safety warnings come with the standard stuff for most movement based platforms, make sure the area around you is clear, take lots of breaks, and of course warnings about motion sickness and nausea, which aren’t unheard of in regards to VR systems, and in the case of which you should stop playing. There is one interesting note in the health and safety warnings, which is that kids under the age of twelve shouldn’t use the VR system. While Sony never stated why directly, it’s not hard to imagine that it’s because it may have an effect on the development of a young child’s vision.
So that’s what we know about the Playstation VR. It’ll be out a bit later than other big name VR systems, in return for more games on release, and enough stock to keep it in stores with any luck. Aside from the Playstation camera which may still be added to the bundle before release, if you have a PS4, the headset will be usable straight out of box. From what we’ve heard of the announced titles, the system will have a killer library within three months of release.
The headset itself is sleek, light and comfortable, with a huge virtual screen, and measures built in to help reduce the chances of motion sickness, and above all else, it seems that the price point for the Playstation VR will be lower than all of its competitors. All things said, this release seem like an extremely promising one whether you’ve bought into the idea of VR before now or not, there’s finally a product that’s built for gaming being released by one of the biggest first party gaming companies in existence, giving it a pedigree that no other VR experience can offer.
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