Sony’s failure to support their hardware gambles is disrespectful to their consumers.
Ever since the PlayStation made its North American debut on December 3, 1994, I’ve been a strong believer in the hardware juggernaut’s products. And why shouldn’t I be? For over two decades, they’ve consistently released incredibly powerful consoles that have been by all accounts resounding victories for the Minato, Tokyo-based corporation. Many of the biggest franchises we enjoy today surfed into our collective consciences atop a DualShock controller. And if Sony’s strong performance this hardware generation is any indication, the company’s incredible success story doesn’t show any signs of coming to a close anytime soon.
Given what the PlayStation brand has accomplished for Sony, you’d think they’d be showing a bit of confidence in their products. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. When it comes to taking a gamble on products that step outside of their comfort zone, Sony shows an alarming tendency to cash out their chips before the game even begins.
Make no mistake, Sony are the kings of cranking out powerful and versatile hardware. But the moment things don’t pan out the way they had hoped, the company is quick to run tail and run – often leaving players with an expensive paperweight after the dust settles. Just look at the PlayStation Portable and the PlayStation Vita: both of these handheld systems released with near-console quality performance that left Nintendo’s portable offerings in the dust in terms of raw horsepower. However, these devices packed a pretty hefty price tag to match their beefier performance. and in turn the steep price of admission ensured both handhelds were slow to garner a sizable user base. While Sony could have focused their efforts on bringing a healthy stable of first party support to the platforms, they instead turned a blind eye to both handhelds, leaving third party developers to keep them alive.
And if the past five months have been any indication, the PlayStation VR could be the next casualty of Sony’s apparent hardware malaise.
Since the PlayStation VR released on October 13, 2016, Sony has shown scant support for the device, which set early adopters back a whopping $500 for the base model console, and $600 for the premium package, which included everything one would need for getting the most out of their new HMD. With only a small handful of first-party titles in development for the device, including the elusive FPS, FarPoint, and Sony’s strange silence regarding the hardware at last December’s PlayStation Experience event in San Francisco, it seems pretty clear that Sony has reined in their enthusiasm for the platform.
As a day-one adopter of the PSVR, I have to say I’m finally at the point where I’ve had enough of being Sony’s willing guinea pig. Their noncommittal approach to their pricey experiments is inexcusable, and a disservice to their loyal consumers.
Sony have demonstrated once again that they are the masters of pitching a sale. When it comes to press events and hardware announcements, very few companies can generate the kind of excitement from their fans that Sony does. Still, despite all of the enthusiasm they demonstrate when pulling back the curtain on their side projects, they always end up cutting their losses before these products can reach their full potential. Since the start of 2017, the only game of note to release on the PSVR is Capcom’s Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. And after the majority of PSVR owners plow through the latest entry in Capcom’s long-running survival horror series, which has proven to be one of the most compelling arguments for the VR despite not being designed specifically for it, it’s very likely that their headsets will be collecting dust for months to come. For a product that just released last holiday season, that’s simply unacceptable.
And that’s a damn shame, because the PSVR is a fantastic little device. Sure, it may not be as cutting-edge as the the Oclus Rift or HTC Vive, but it’s an affordable VR setup that performs admirably despite its share of caveats, which include single-camera tracking and the antiquated PlayStation Move controllers. Still, given the huge install base of the PlayStation 4, the PSVR actually has the potential to be the product that helps the medium achieve mainstream popularity. But it’s pretty obvious Sony doesn’t have the stomach to make that happen, at least looking at the headset’s almost nonexistent lineup of upcoming software.
One of the real kickers when it comes to Sony’s mismanagement of the PSVR is that the company pitched the PlayStation 4 Pro as a device that is meant to beef up the performance of PSVR software considerably. With that in mind I, like I’m assuming many others, purchased the Pro hoping to get the most out of my headset – though 4K support was also obviously a good reason to snatch up Sony’s newest iteration of the console. Unfortunately, with so little on the horizon for the headset, it seems like the promises of an optimized PSVR experience is something of an empty promise. That said, taking the Pro into consideration, I’ve dumped close to a thousand dollars into a setup designed for the ideal PSVR performance since last fall, with precious little to show for it. And while I’m not opposed to taking a risk when I buy new hardware, that’s a lot of cash to throw away on an experiment that looks like it could be on track to fizzle out in the coming months. I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s feeling similarly disillusioned by Sony’s lackluster handling of the PSVR. After all, the initial launch lineup served as a fantastic example of what the hardware could do. Games like Batman: Arkham VR, Battlezone VR, and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood were compelling showcases of what the medium has to offer. But it seems like that initial torrent of software could very well be the PSVR’s one and only surge of support.
Sony still has time to right the ship and show some earnest support for the PSVR, but their own silence on the topic doesn’t really instill a great deal of confidence that we’ll be seeing that happen. If this year’s E3 isn’t chock full of surprises slated for the headset, I think it’s safe to say that Sony has once again sent another piece of fantastic tech out to pasture well ahead of its time. And if that’s the case, I don’t see myself taking the plunge on their next ill-fated experiment.
Thankfully, there are still a few games on the horizon that look poised to shine on the PlayStation VR. Cockpit-based experiences are always excellent showpieces for VR, and Ace Combat 7 could well be the killer app many have been waiting for. Polyphony’s Gran Turismo Sport is also set to race onto the PSVR later this year. However, it remains to be seen if the heavy graphical concessions that plagued Driveclub VR will rear their head to impact fans’ enjoyment of the game when it races to retail in November. We also can’t rule out indie studios making up for a lack of steady first-party support. The Vita and PSP survived for years despite a lack of real support from Sony, with the Vita still receiving a steady stream of releases thanks to publishers like Koei Tecmo and NISA. Given its experimental nature, VR has thrived with indie support on PCs, and with any luck we’ll see the same happen with the PSVR over time.
So, are you feeling a bit left in the cold due to Sony’s lack of serious support for their non-flagship platforms? Were you burned on the PSP, Vita, or PSVR? And if you bought a PSVR, do you think that Sony will be able to make things right, or that third party studios will be able to offer enough support to make it a worthwhile addition to the PlayStation family? As always, we love to hear what you think. Be sure to sound off in the comments and let us know.