PlayStation VR, despite being one of the latest to market out of current virtual reality offerings, has enjoyed sales performance that has managed to startle even Sony itself.
While the conversation surrounding both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift has been decidedly muted, Sony’s PlayStation VR has been quietly flying off the shelf. SuperData Research has estimated competitors HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift sales at somewhere close to 420,000 and 243,000 units in 2016, respectively. Meanwhile, the PSVR has moved over 915,000 units since October; more than its next two competitors are estimated to have combined.
While Oculus is closing demo stations, and Gabe Newell is hedging on the Vive’s potential for “complete failure,” Sony has even managed to make their own CEO do a double-take. Sony’s internal goal was to sell a million PSVR devices by April, but it looks like they will handily eclipse their own optimism. Andrew House, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s CEO, was previously among the most skeptical:
It’s the classic case in any organization — the guys who are on the front end in sales are getting very excited, very hyped up. You have to temper that with other voices inside the company, myself among them, saying let’s just be a little bit careful.
Now, House has changed his tune. He described Japanese customers “lining up outside stores when they know stock is being replenished.” Those shortages won’t be a problem forever, though. House says that they will reinforce their supply by April in response to the demand, and that they are looking to start distribution in Latin America in Fall 2017.
In addition, the upcoming PSVR Aim Controller will target the growing crowd of people looking toward Sony’s virtual reality experience for immersive game experiences.
But all of the support in the world wouldn’t m n anything, if PSVR didn’t address the biggest barrier between consumers and virtual reality: You can get into PSVR for $400. The Rift is $600, and the Vive is a whopping $800. On top of that, you need a reasonably beefy setup of PC hardware. Even with the addition of Move controllers, a camera, and an entire console, PSVR is significantly less expensive. Besides that, the console’s plug and play nature is much less intimidating for newcomers, as well as gamers who are looking for something that just works, right out of the box.
Besides that, the console’s plug and play nature is much less intimidating for newcomers, as well as gamers who are looking for something that just works, right out of the box.
But when it comes down to it, these numbers are good for everyone who is investing in virtual reality. The success of PSVR means that the installed base for virtual reality is already at least 1.5 million users. It is the kind of captive audience that should please any prospective VR developer. People who have invested in the hardware are going to want to justify their purchase, which means more than a million people flocking to the first sign of any compelling VR experience. A surge in PSVR developers could potentially follow.
It has been difficult to know how excited or not consumers should be about virtual reality. The offerings thus far have been expensive and lacking a killer app. But Sony seems to have found a sweet spot, and now they are building the sort of momentum that is making the industry sit up and take notice.
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