A next-generation take on PlayStation VR is coming. It just won’t be here anytime soon.
Sony dropped the surprise news on Tuesday morning in a vague PlayStation Blog post that doesn’t do much more than confirm the existence of a plan.
“Today I’m pleased to share that our next-generation VR system will be coming to PlayStation 5, enabling the ultimate entertainment experience with dramatic leaps in performance and interactivity,” the post from platform planning and management SVP Hideaki Nishino reads. “Players will feel an even greater sense of presence and become even more immersed in their game worlds once they put on the new headset.”
The post goes on to note a few small details about the new spin on PSVR that ought to help set some expectations. It won’t be wireless but it will offer a simpler setup than the previous headset, with just one cord tethering the headset to PlayStation 5 consoles. Players can also expect to see improvement in “everything from resolution and field of view to tracking and input.”
On the input front, the PS5VR (our moniker; the product has no official name at this point) will incorporate elements from the latest PlayStation console’s DualSense controller. It’s not clear exactly what that means, but the DualSense is a PS5 highlight with its more finely tuned rumble features and adaptive triggers that let developers increase or decrease the tension on trigger pulls.
(If you’re having a hard time imaging how adaptive triggers work in practice, imagine a first-person shooter where you feel actual resistance against your finger when you shoot your virtual gun.)
That’s the extent of the meaningful new information shared in Sony’s post. Like I said, it’s not much. But the hardware also isn’t coming anytime soon, with Nishino noting that “it won’t be launching in 2021.”
It won’t be wireless but it will offer a simpler setup than the previous headset, with just one cord.
A tie-in Washington Post story featuring quotes from Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan offers a tiny bit more detail, with Ryan noting that the new headset’s development kits, which is specialized hardware that studios use to build their products, will be going out soon.
Ryan also doubled down on the PS5VR’s simpler setup process as an example of how the new hardware will differ.
“Generational leaps allows you to sweep up the advances in technology that have taken place,” he said. “Given this was our first foray into virtual reality, it gives us a chance to apply lessons learned. One of the very vivid illustrations of that is that we will be moving to a very easy single-cord setup.”
If you’re feeling a little underwhelmed, I get it. There’s not a whole lot of information to work with here. But most anyone who’s used the existing version of PSVR will tell you that an upgrade is long overdue. Not only did the original headset launch in 2016, but it also employed PlayStation Move controllers — a technology that first released in 2010 — for individual hand controls.
The headset itself is very comfortable and well-built, if a bit of a pain to connect with all the cords that need to be dealt with, as well as a supplementary processing box that connected directly to the PS4. Performance is an issue, though, as we noted in our original review of the hardware. Even at launch, the PSVR headset’s resolution and latency lagged behind the PC-tethered competition.
The technology has improved dramatically since then with high-end experiences like Valve’s Index system and HTC’s Vive, as well as the totally wireless, self-contained setup of the Oculus Quest. Any PlayStation headset still has the big advantage of not needing to be plugged into a powerful (and expensive) computer. Consoles like the PS5 tend to live in more homes, and they offer the advantage of plug-and-play support.
Sony still has a lot of PS5 supply issues to solve, with many people still waiting to buy one as re-stocked virtual and physical shelves clear out almost immediately when more consoles arrive. But with this PS5VR not arriving until at least 2022, there’s time to fix that at least.
The question, then, is how Sony will avoid falling into the same trap that the PSVR did. The new headset needs to be future-proofed better than the last one was. Sony turning to a new controller is a good start — it was always a little ridiculous that the premiere VR-style controls for the first PSVR released more than half a decade earlier — but we’ll need more details on specs and performance before we can get a sense of just how the new headset is built to compete.
For now, the news is: The thing is happening. As for how it happens, when it arrives, and what form it will take… we’ll have to wait and see.