At a surprisingly brief press event yesterday, Sony announced the price and release date for its PlayStation VR hardware: It’ll retail for $399 this October.
That puts PlayStation VR at a significantly lower price point than competitors Oculus Rift ($599) and HTC Vive ($799) — a differential that gets even more vast when you compare the cost of a Rift- or Vive-ready PC (Oculus offers a handy bundle at $1499) to the cost of a PlayStation 4 plus a PlayStation 4 Camera ($408).
In other words, the PlayStation VR pricing news is a major shot across the bow in the war to dominate the virtual reality market. With both the Vive and the Rift due to hit stores in a matter of weeks, Sony is hoping that thrifty-minded shoppers will be willing to wait an extra five months to take the virtual plunge.
It’s potentially a very costly bet, because the loss on each unit sold must be substantial. But if Sony can’t amass market share quickly it will be difficult for them to catch up to Oculus and HTC — not to mention the manufacturers of smartphone-powered devices (like the Samsung Gear VR) coming out in the interim.
That said, there could be room for multiple players in the VR hardware market. Sony at the moment is the only company offering VR to console audiences, who don’t always own high-end PCs (myself included). And many consumers may simply opt for the convenience of a device that straps onto their smartphone, even if the fidelity isn’t as high as its PC and console competitors.
My prediction: By the end of this year, the PlayStation VR and Rift will be neck-and-neck as far as units sold, with Sony overtaking Oculus early in 2017 and not looking back. Smartphone devices like the Gear VR will proliferate, with more combined sales than the PlayStation VR or Rift, but no one manufacturer will dominate. And the Vive? It will linger in a distant last, and will mainly come up in defiant comments on future VR articles that neglect to give the Vive its due… like this one.
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