What does Sony’s entry into the VR arena mean for Oculus and the future of virtual reality?

Having live-blogged the announcement conference, I didn’t have time to stop and think about what was actually being said until it was all over. Wow. Sony just jumped into the VR space in a big way… and it looks like they’re doing it right. What does it all mean?

The Right Way

sony-project-morpheus-ps4-vr-headset-reveal

I have to applaud Sony for their smart marketing. There was major risk of looking like they were shouting “us too!” while standing in Oculus’ shadow. Morpheus could have come out looking like a cheap ripoff, but they definitely came off with the impression that this is something they have taken seriously and have been working on for a long time. Not only do they have a developer kit that looks aesthetically good enough to be a consumer product, they have a (relatively) decent array of demos ready to show the world and a fleet of eight developer kits in the spotlight at their booth on the show floor. Sony didn’t hack these together under pressure. They carefully planned their approach and were very ready for a full reveal at GDC. At least, that’s how it all appears.

In their presentation they lauded Oculus as being inspirational and said in the Q&A that they were working together “in spirit” toward a common goal of great VR and immersive experiences. They could have come off like the big mean corporation trying to steal a great idea from Oculus, but they managed to (so far) avoid that.

SEE ALSO
Why CES 2017 Will Set the Stage for the Next Year of VR

Importantly, they made it clear that they’ve been listening. Sony’s showing of the HMZ-series ‘personal 3D viewer’, which was haphazardly positioned toward VR at CES 2014, came off as a company that was completely out of touch with what it means to have a good VR experience (though it was a different arm of Sony). Project Morpheus, on the other hand, is clearly hitting all of the important points. Sony has shown that they know they need positional tracking, low-persistence screen, wide field of view, and custom content. Their presentation made it very clear they they’ve been watching Valve and Oculus closely, and their single-screen approach shows that they agree with this sort of VR being the way forward.

Validation

ps4-vr-headset-prototype

All heads figuratively swiveled to Oculus the moment Sony unveiled Project Morpheus, the dev kit for the PS4 VR headset. There was real fear that if Sony pushed bad VR out to the masses, it could cripple the industry again. But with Sony showing that they paid attention to the foundation that Oculus, Valve, and others have laid over the last few years, they effectively quelled that fear.

For Oculus the reveal of Project Morpheus is majorly validating: one of the biggest consumer electronics companies in the world just said ‘we think VR is the future.’ If Oculus was publicly traded, you’d have seen its stock price skyrocket after Sony’s announcement. Sony didn’t just step into the VR arena, they doubled the size of the stadium.

Not Direct Competition

sony-ps4-vr-headset-project-morpheus

One important thing to note is that Sony and Oculus are not directly competing at this point. Just like consoles and gaming PCs don’t compete in the exact same space, the Oculus Rift and PS Morpheus are not vying for the same consumer dollars.

SEE ALSO
Final Specs Show PSVR is Heaviest Among Rift and Vive, But It Still Gets My Vote for Best Ergonomics

Consoles exist because people want ease-of-use. They want to come home, flop on the couch, power up their console and just play a game. They don’t want to boot up their computer, update graphics card drivers, and configure third-party voice chat applications. Developers too want a single platform to target and optimize against. Then there’s the PC gamers and developers who want to be on the bleeding edge and are willing to put up with PC woes to be there.

With Morpheus being on PS4 and Oculus Rift being on PC, the same rules apply. We’re looking at a venn diagram with some overlap in the middle. How much overlap? That’s a great question.

Microsoft and the VR Event Horizon

Perhaps the biggest implication of Sony’s entrance into VR is that Microsoft just got sucked in with them. Mark my words, Microsoft will also get into the VR space. They can’t afford not to. Sony is going to push VR as a unique selling point for its console and they’re going to push it hard. It will be a big draw going forward, especially at this pivotal time in the new console generation. Consumers weighing up PS4 vs Xbox One will now have to factor in the dense mass of VR into their equation, and Microsoft will need to balance that scale. Oculus is going to nail VR on PC and Sony is going to nail it on console. Microsoft will have to present an offering, just like when Sony and Microsoft had to jump into the gesture-control game because of Nintendo’s undeniable success with the Wii.

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.


  • Ryan

    Nice article. The unveiling photo is sweet. Are you also going to write up some hands-on impressions and maybe a comparison with DK2?

  • Peter Schlueer

    It will be interesting to see if and when Sony (and Microsoft) will make available their coming 3D headsets outside the gaming console world for professional application platform providers like WorldViz. We at WorldViz have our team at GDC today, and shall briefly review the Oculus Dev Kit II and the Sony Project Morpheus in our upcoming newsletter…

  • Angel

    In my opinion the final goal for The Oculus team is to create a visor compatible with much platforms possibles, so Microsoft can simply supports Oculus for becoming a standard in the vr world…. Morpheus alone couldn’t survive against the entire community

    • monographix

      They might have to, although it would probably still be a dead end. Steam machines, which are still waiting for their moment somewhere behind horizon, will be direct competition to MS licensed PC’s and consoles and there might come time they will manage without MS being involved at all. At some point they will be designed to have total and optimal compatibility with OR and gaming in general. MS won’t be safe anymore.

      As for the SONY, the wisest thing they can do right now is to try not to cross the market with OR while still providing quality experience. The bottom line is, their Morpheus will either be twice as costly as OR or they will be selling it below the production cost like they did with PS3 and earn money on games alone. With their politics and this whole rush it’s inevitable – and they sped up they R&D on this one big time.

      • Darshan Gayake

        Don’t you think component involved in project Morpheus are cheaper then OR,

        For Ex. Display a LCD Vs LED, they don’t need to pack cam like in DK2 and lake of Latency tester, lake of infrared emitters so on so if OR can sell DK2 at 350$. i don’t think any one in his right sanity will go below Breakeven that means at breakeven+G.K.W Profit(God Knows What) if DK2 can be sold at 350USd.

        Morpheus equivalent HMD should not cost more then 250USD and at that price it should be grand success for PS4 owners of-course. but for PC experience i would pay 100USD more and buy OR as they seem to be more committed than sony at this point.