PVSR 2 Launch – Was It A Failure Or Just The First Step?
PSVR 2 launched on February 22, 2023, with muted marketing by Sony. The launch ended the agony of PSVR 1 enthusiasts who expected the new headset to launch more than a year ago. But a Bloomberg article tainted the joy of the launch. Just over a month later, Bloomberg called the launch a failure because of the low number of units sold.
But is this true?
Let’s take a closer look at the launch data and the factors that surround it.
There has been a general lack of marketing by the big three console makers. Not only Sony but Microsoft and Nintendo have been uncharacteristically subdued in the promotion of upcoming games. This could be due to the aftereffects of the pandemic creating a gap in game releases. Or it could be the three companies holding their cards close to the vest because of the review of Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision. Or a combination of the two and possibly other factors.
PSVR 2 PS Direct Soft Launch
Whatever the reasons, Sony launched the PSVR 2 with minimal fanfare and in several markets took a very restrictive purchasing option. Several countries, including the biggest market, the US, could only buy a PSVR 2 through Sony’s online purchase portal, PS Direct. This strategy suggests Sony wanted to do a soft launch where the device would be available for the hard-core console VR enthusiasts to have the first crack.
In the first month of release, estimates place the number of units sold between 270,000 and 300,000. A small number, but not so when taken in context with the attach rate of the PSVR 1. At a rate of around 5%, Sony sold between five and six million units of PSVR 1 against a PS4 console base of 120 million.
So the first month’s sales of PSVR 2 are impressive. According to an article published by Insider Gaming, if 300,000 units were sold in the first month, Sony had one of the best-selling wired VR headset launches ever. In just one month, the PSVR 2 sold a third of the 900,000 units of the PSVR 1 sold in its first five months. This is even more impressive when you take into consideration the supply issues of the PS5 until this year. And against a current install base of only 32 million PS5s as of February 2023.
The PSVR 2 launched with one big AAA title, Horizon Dawn: Call of the Mountain, and a VR Mode for two previously released AAA titles: Resident Evil 7 and Gran Turismo 7. In addition, several PSVR 1 games received free PSVR 2 upgrades like The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, Synth Riders, and Pistol Whip. We can upgrade other PSVR 1 games for a minimal fee. Finally, there were ports of existing VR games too. All told, they combined to make the launch library of the PSVR 2 one of the best platform launches ever.
Niche To Mass Market Adoption
With PS5 supply no longer an issue, the console install base will be much larger by the end of the year. As of May 2023, the visibility of PSVR 2s will blossom as Sony opens up the sale of it to retailers in the previously restricted PS Direct-only countries.
Never publicly stated by Sony, there is a belief and hope among PSVR 2 gamers in hybrid games. Hybrid games would be the most economical way for AAA VR games. By adding a VR Mode to their First Party Games, Sony would minimize the risks and costs associated with VR Games.
VR Gaming is a niche market. As such, games created for VR tend to be smaller and more experiential affairs. Until VR Gaming achieves mass adoption on par with pancake games, there is no way to recoup the costs associated with that of an AAA Flat Game.
While smaller, less complex games worked for VR in the past, this is no longer true. The appetite for VR Games at the same level as flat AAA Games has increased. VR Gamers want VR Games of the same quality and length as their flatscreen partners. Hybrid gaming is the best way to achieve this. And VR needs AAA games to move from its current niche status to mass market adoption.
Holiday 2023 = True PSVR 2 Launch
With the PSVR 2’s eye tracking and foveated rendering, Sony seems poised to make AAA VR Gaming possible. One needs only to play Call of The Mountain, Gran Turismo 7, or Resident Evil Village for confirmation.
It’s difficult to state with certainty the fate of the PSVR 2 at this moment due to Sony’s lack of promotion. The latest rumors have the next Sony Showcase happening this June. Hopefully, they will provide us with a roadmap for the year that includes their plans for the PSVR 2.
In summary, the true telling of PSVR 2 success will be determined this holiday season. There will be a larger PS5 install base plus, hopefully, bigger and better PSVR2 games to play.