OPINION: The PlayStation VR 2 is only a matter of weeks away from launch, and looks to be an exciting extension to the PS5 for those who enjoy virtual reality.
However, it looks like Sony is dialing down expectations in terms of sales, with Bloomberg reporting that the PlayStation maker has “halved its forecast for shipments of the PSVR2” following an underwhelming number of pre-orders for the device.
So why is the PlayStation VR 2 struggling with pre-orders, especially since the PS5 console has been selling like hotcakes? Here are the top five reasons why I think the PSVR 2 isn’t selling as well as Sony had hoped.
The incredibly high price
The PlayStation VR 2 has a retail price of $549.99 in the US and £529.99 in the UK. You’re able to purchase a PS5 console for far less than that.
That’s a big price hike on the original PlayStation VR, which was available for $399 in the US and £349 in the UK at launch.
You could argue that the PlayStation VR 2 is actually pretty cheap compared to the competition. The Meta Quest Pro offers similar technology such as eye tracking, but was priced at an eye-watering $1499.99 / £1499.99 at launch. This headset was admittedly aimed at prosumers and businesses, but it still features similar specs to the PSVR 2.
That still doesn’t change the fact that PlayStation VR 2 demands a significant outlay, which may well put off those who have yet to dip their toe into virtual reality. The fact that it requires a PS5 to function also increases the total cost of the set-up.
Lack of backwards compatibility
Convincing VR newcomers to buy an expensive headset is going to be a tough task. Instead, it makes far more sense for Sony to try and appeal to those who purchased the original PlayStation VR headset.
To that end, Sony is doing a poor job at winning over the existing fanbase after confirming that the PSVR 2 will not offer any backwards compatibility. That means you’re going to be forced to build your game library from scratch, making all of those existing PSVR purchases effectively redundant.
To rub salt into the wound, the PSVR 2 launch line-up includes familiar games such as Moss, No Man’s Sky and Rez Infinite. All of these titles were available on the original headset so there’s a good chance PSVR owners have already purchased them but in order to experience these games on the PSVR 2, you’ll have to spend money on a fresh purchase.
As a result, the only major launch titles that weren’t available on the previous headset are Horizon Call of the Mountain, Gran Turismo 7 and Resident Evil Village. Sony will need to bulk up that offering to make the PSVR 2 a worthwhile upgrade.
Being a pre-order exclusive to PlayStation Direct
Last year, Sony launched its new online store called PlayStation Direct. This allowed the company to sell its hardware directly to fans, without having to give a slice of the pie to third-party retailers such as Amazon and Game.
In order to boost the profile of its new online store, Sony has made the PSVR 2 a pre-order exclusive for PlayStation Direct. That means you’re unable to buy it anywhere else ahead of launch.
While I can understand Sony’s motive for increasing publicity for its online store, it’s hardly a surprise to see this have a detrimental effect on PSVR 2 sales. Potential customers are far less likely to stumble upon the PSVR 2 online and make an impulse purchase.
Sony also has to remember that a decent chunk of PS5 owners are casual gamers, and are less likely to keep up with the news cycle. Some people may not even know the PSVR 2 is launching on February 22nd, especially since retailers such as Amazon aren’t advertising the product ahead of launch.
Poor time to launch a new VR headset
February is a very strange time to launch a new expensive VR headset. Game consoles usually hit stores just before Christmas, with November having hosted the release of both the PS5 and Xbox Series X. This is a clever tactic, as they become good options for gifts, while people are also more likely to spend large amounts of money around that time of year.
In February, however, people are likely to be more frugal with their money. The likes of smartphones and laptops are different, as people will be looking to upgrade if their contract is coming to an end or their outdated hardware is starting to become a nuisance. The PlayStation VR 2 is a luxury purchase, and it is harder to justify a significant outlay for it.
There are a few game consoles that saw success from launching in the first half of the year. The original Nintendo Switch is a good example, but the hybrid console has more mass market appeal and launched with a massive hit in Breath of the Wild.
We’ve also seen a big decline in big-money purchases in general over the past year or so. That’s likely down to the financial climate, with energy, petrol and rent all seeing an increase in cost. With many people struggling to make ends meet, a PSVR 2 purchase is likely the last thing they want to think about. This is out of Sony’s control, but it may well explain why the company needed to scale back its forecast.
The original PSVR had an underwhelming lineup of games
You’ll often find that the reputation of the previous edition of a game console will have a significant impact on the sales of the successor. For example, the popularity of the PS4 will no doubt have had a major influence on the impressive sales figures of the PS5. It’s highly likely that VR headsets could see a similar pattern.
Unfortunately for the PSVR 2, most gamers don’t think about the preceding PSVR headset all too fondly. There are numerous reasons for this: its controllers felt outdated very quickly compared to rival headsets and it was always a pain to set up with multiple cables. The biggest issue of all however was the lacklustre game library.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission was arguably the only big PlayStation exclusive to launch on the PSVR and while there are plenty of other great third-party VR games such as Beat Saber, Superhot VR, Thumper and Moss, these were all available on more affordable headsets such as the Oculus Quest and Meta Quest 2. As a result, many PSVR owners are probably wondering whether the PSVR 2 will face similar issues.
To be fair to Sony, it’s already working on addressing these concerns by releasing both Horizon Call of the Mountain and Gran Turismo 7, but if the PlayStation VR 2 is ever going to be a big success, it’s going to need additional exclusives. Hopefully we’ll see VR takes on franchises such as God of War, The Last of Us, Spider-Man and more.