PlayStation Goggles are a win for gamers. Not for the Metaverse.
PlayStation Goggles are a win for gamers. Not for the Metaverse.
Ah, the “metaverse”. Will a fantasy where our office meetings and social gatherings mostly take place in virtual reality ever come true?
As a tech reviewer who’s worn nearly every pair of VR goggles released in the past seven years, I’ve been holding my breath for a long time. And based on my testing of this year’s first big hardware release in the metaverse category — Sony’s PlayStation VR2, which arrives Wednesday — I’ve concluded that VR still has a ways to go before it becomes a staple. for work and leisure.
To be clear, the PlayStation VR2, priced at $550, is one of the best pieces of VR hardware you can buy. The curved white headset plugs into the PlayStation 5 console, which is equipped with a powerful computer to run high-resolution games more easily; by contrast, Meta’s VR devices, including its $400 Oculus Quest 2 and $1,500 Quest Pro, operate wirelessly and rely on slower computer chips built into headsets.
Also unlike Meta, Sony is leaning towards using VR glasses just for gaming – a smart choice as, so far, games have been the most popular VR apps and productivity apps for taking video calls via helmets have not gained in popularity.
Still, none of this is enough to make VR more of a niche, even as more brands, including Apple, prepare to enter the industry. That’s because many of the issues people have had with VR headsets from the start – including their off-putting aesthetics and high price tag – remain with PlayStation VR2 glasses. That being the case, I can recommend them to enthusiasts, but not to those who play video games occasionally.
Here’s how I felt about VR and the Metaverse after a week of testing the PlayStation VR2.
What is the Metaverse and why is it important?
The origins.The word “metaverse” describes a fully realized digital world that exists beyond the one we live in. It was invented by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”, and the concept was further explored by Ernest Cline in his novel “Ready Player One”.
Virtual reality has yet to find a really great application.
Why use virtual reality to make video calls, stream movies, or play games when existing methods already work well? This is the eternal question surrounding the metaverse. Despite advances in technology, the new PlayStation glasses don’t offer a clear answer.
The most compelling new game I tried was Horizon Call of the Mountain, a VR spin-off of the best-selling PlayStation 4 title Horizon Zero Dawn, a post-apocalyptic role-playing game. In the VR game, you control the character from a first-person perspective and can swing your arms to run and climb mountains; you can also move your hands to grab an arrow from a quiver and shoot it with a bow.
It’s a fun game with awesome graphics that show off the muscle of the hardware, but in the end, I still preferred the gameplay and deeper story of the original Horizon Zero Dawn, which I finished there. years on the PlayStation 4.
Otherwise, a majority of the VR games accompanying the launch of the device I tested were relatively old and uninspiring. Those included Star Wars: Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge; Tetris effect: Connected; and Moss, which were previously released for the older Quest 2 and first-gen PlayStation VR.
In general, the graphics and movements of the new PlayStation glasses seemed clearer and smoother than Meta’s VR products. Yet more often than not, I wondered why a game should be played in VR rather than on a TV screen.
In the Star Wars game, where you play as a droid mechanic, firing a blaster at an enemy would have been just as easy using a gamepad. The same could be said of Moss, where you control a mouse white in a 3D environment. Tetris Effect: Connected involves rotating pieces called tetrominos, just as you would in any traditional Tetris game created over the past few decades; there was no clear benefit to playing this in an immersive environment.
Other games coming soon to PlayStation VR2 that I haven’t been able to test include big titles like Gran Turismo 7 and Resident Evil Village. They’re popular franchises, but both have been released for mainstream consoles in the last couple of years.
Gaming may be the killer VR app right now, but if you want fresh and exciting games, the console-plus-TV combo is still king.
Helmets still look and feel weird to wear.
Ever since VR hardware started hitting the market about seven years ago, headsets have lost weight. At 20 ounces, the PlayStation VR2 is one ounce lighter than its predecessor and five ounces lighter than the Meta Quest Pro. But all the glasses still seemed too heavy. In my experience, I couldn’t wear them for more than 30 minutes before I started to feel neck tension.
Example: PlayStation VR2 fell off my face and hit the ground while I was playing the Star Wars game and bent down to pick up a tool from the floor of a virtual space station. The wire plugged into the console also made the device bulkier than wireless headsets and created a tripping hazard in the living room.
And like all the glasses that came before it, the PlayStation VR2 looks pretty ridiculous. My wife couldn’t help but shoot videos to make fun of me while I was wearing a helmet that made me look like a character from the movie “Tron”.
For storage, Sony includes a charging station to hold the motion controllers, which is handy. But with the headset, the product takes up valuable space in a living room – and unlike a laptop or smartphone, VR glasses instantly make a tidy room look cluttered. For singles, I’m afraid the sight of glasses kills the chances of a second date.
The Metaverse is lonely.
For the metaverse concept to succeed, we need to be able to connect with our loved ones in this space. In its current state, virtual reality is still a mostly solitary experience. When you wear the PlayStation Goggles, you block your view of the real world. What you do in the game is displayed on the TV screen to which the PlayStation is connected. It allows others in the room to follow along, but it’s not very social.
Which raises another problem: to have friends to play with in the metaverse, they have to buy the same headset – and the technology is always expensive.
When consumer technology becomes mainstream, it usually becomes cheaper and more accessible. Although it’s been in the market for most of the past decade, virtual reality is heading in the opposite direction. At $550, the PlayStation VR2 costs $150 more than its predecessor – and that’s on top of the $500 you have to pay for a PlayStation 5.
Sony is not alone in the price spike. Last year, Meta raised the price of its best-selling headset, the Quest 2, to $400 from $300. Apple’s headset, which could be released this year, is expected to be a high-end device that could cost thousands of dollars, according to reports.
So maybe one day – when the tech is cheaper, has a really awesome app, and doesn’t make people look like weirdos – we’ll all hang out in the metaverse. For now, I will continue to meet people in person and online the old fashioned way.