Back in November, Sony officially revealed the PlayStation VR2 release date and price point. The unit is pretty costly, retailing at $549.99 (that’s £529.99 on the UK store without any games) and coming with no software pack-ins unless you buy the Horizon Forbidden West bundle, which is £40 more expensive. Still, many are pointing to PS VR2 as a potential flashpoint for the world of VR gaming. Sony is looking to position this headset in the same market as alternatives like the Valve Index and the HTC Vive.
With that in mind, will the PS VR2 make a serious splash in the VR world? There are suggestions that it could go either way, but a new study published by VPN company ExpressVPN suggests that any heralding of PS VR2 as a new standard for VR might be slightly premature. The study points to just how grim things look for VR; it’s still yet to be adopted by most gamers, probably due to prohibitive pricing and a feeling of general gimmickry. Let’s take a look at that study and what it might mean for PS VR2 and the wider VR world in general.
Will PS VR2 be adopted en masse?
The study in question was originally carried out to discover who spends the most time gaming in terms of age demographics. According to the ExpressVPN piece, millennials are more likely to spend longer gaming than Gen Z gamers, who also don’t play as frequently.
However, the more pertinent statistic in the study for our purposes is that of the 2000 gamers surveyed by ExpressVPN, only 9% of them played games on VR devices. That compares to 61% playing on console, with 50% playing on a PC or laptop and a staggering 70% playing on smartphones.
Of course, it’s impossible to extrapolate wider trends from a single study, but if the ExpressVPN study is indicative of gaming trends as a whole, it’s not looking great for VR, or for PS VR2 in particular. Sony will likely want to get its headset into as many homes as possible given that only 9% of gamers engage with VR (and that’s across multiple platforms, too, so it includes the original PS VR), but if the figures are that low, then the company has an uphill battle to fight.
Why aren’t gamers playing VR games?
The ExpressVPN study doesn’t specifically state why gamers aren’t going for VR, but it does contain an interesting piece of information that probably tells the story to a large degree. When explaining why smartphones are the number one device on which to game, ExpressVPN says that smartphones are “powerful enough for us to play games unencumbered”.
You can simply pick up your smartphone and start playing a game, which is likely to appeal to gamers who don’t have a lot of time to invest into their chosen hobby. As well as this, gamers who just want to grab a game and play for 10 to 15 minutes might well choose a phone as their chosen device, since there’s no time-consuming setup process or lengthy update or install procedure (for the most part, anyway).
It’s not really possible to pick up a VR unit and simply play for a little while. Technically, this can, of course, be done, but actually donning the headset, grabbing the controllers, and firing up the console is quite an involved process, so you’d likely only commit to it if you knew you wanted to play a solid hour or two of VR gaming.
Still, the ExpressVPN study found that by far the most common duration for a gaming session was between 2 and 4 hours, and that many gamers – including those between the ages of 46 to 55 – play games for marathon 24-hour sessions, which is remarkable. In that light, perhaps PS VR2 has a better chance of succeeding; its immersive nature means that gaming sessions should, by definition, last longer, which is likely to appeal to gamers who like to spend more time playing their games.
Will PS VR2 tip the balance?
While the Xbox Series X/S has been enjoying impressive sales performance in recent times, it’s fair to say that the PS5 is catching up with it. The PS5’s lifetime sales remain higher than those of the Xbox Series X/S, and as the ExpressVPN study says, 61% of gamers are playing games on consoles, so that’s a lot of sales for the PS5.
With that in mind, the PS VR2 has a significant install base from which to draw. You need a PS5 console in order to enjoy PS VR2; the headset connects to the console via a single USB-C cable and can’t be played standalone, so it’s essentially an extremely expensive accessory or peripheral. However, given the power of the unit and the range of games that will be available for it, it’s clear that Sony wants you to see PS VR2 as a brand new gaming system rather than simply an accessory for the PS5.
If any VR headset has a chance of transforming the VR landscape, it’s PS VR2. Its restrictive pricing and relative lack of “killer apps” might not be great indicators in the short term, but as the library expands and sales and discounts inevitably begin, more and more gamers could look to pick up PS VR2. The ExpressVPN study we cited above points to millennials as the most populous gaming demographic, and millennials have a reasonable amount of disposable income to spend on things like VR headsets, so we could well see a sea change in the way that VR is perceived if PS VR2 is successful. We’ll just have to wait and see!