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VR vs. Timings

There’s a new version of PlayStation VR coming, and the announcement has Kevin scratching his head.

One of these weeks, I swear, a planned topic will be able to be addressed. Unfortunately though it seems like we’re going to have to talk about something else instead. No biggie but this one came pretty much out of leftfield. So, let’s set the scene.

I made the mistake of heading back into the gym yesterday, I say mistake as after a good half hour I realised I might not yet be fully recovered from my recent illness. My own fault for not testing the waters, so to speak, and take it a little bit easier. But, of course, my brain instead went “you have a day off, let’s go for a longer session”. Yeah, that was a mistake.  Sometimes it’s best to wait a little longer and avoid doing yourself a mischief. The timing just wasn’t right.

Because I am a terrible person I started flicking through my mobile phone, checking emails, catching up with the headlines (which as you can imagine was extremely depressing), and generally getting up to speed with things as I’d been a little out of the loop socially after working the weekend.  The work Skype chat was already in full flow, which was somewhat unusual and it was there that I first saw a message flick past about a “new PSVR”.

Like I imagine a lot of you did yesterday I immediately clicked a link to a post and read about the announcement from Sony. What it amounts to is an upgrade to the existing head mounted display (HMD). It’s going to be thinner, it has HDR passthrough support and on-board headphones. In case you’re, like myself, not as technically minded as some, HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range”.  In short “HDR passthrough means that people with 4K, HDR compatible TVs won’t have to remove the PlayStation VR Processing Unit to get HDR from their normal PS4 games. It doesn’t make PSVR HDR compatible.” – to quote the boss.

Some are calling it “PlayStation VR 2” but it really isn’t. For a start I’ve not seen Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) call it that. It does have the charming name of “CUH-ZVR2”, which is its model number and is numerically an advancement from the original PlayStation VR’s CUH-ZVR1; but really in truth it’s more PlayStation VR v1.1. that PSVR 2: Wrath Of Kaz.

I’ve seen people be upset about the HDR aspect (specifically that the box can’t just be bought on its own and as mentioned above isn’t backwardly compatible) and that it means the original PSVR is now, whisper it with me… ‘old’.  But it is what it is. It’s an upgrade. And, let’s lay this out plainly, there’s nothing particularly new about hardware, particularly connected to the videogame sector getting updates. We’re almost a year into PlayStation VR being on the market, and ‘slimmer with different bits’ is pretty much the default update.

Heck, let’s narrow it down further to virtual reality (VR). There was the ‘new’ Gear VR (aka “the black one”, because nobody remembers it is the ‘new Gear VR’ or even ‘Gear VR 2’) Whilst over and HTC Vive, not counting the add-on upgrades like the deluxe audio strap we’ve known about the upgraded Knuckles controllers (minus Sonic) for Vive since December last year. Even before that there were modifications to the Lighthouse sensors and we had the Vive Pre before the general consumer release version we’re more accustomed to.

Updates happen.  So, SIE have decided to give things a refresh after a year; that I’m neither confused nor particular surprised about.  What I am surprised about, and what we’re back to is timing. Everything about the timing for the announcement was off.

Who makes a surprise hardware announcement first thing in the morning on a Monday in Europe and whilst America is asleep? Yes, the announcement was somewhat friendlier to the Asian market; and whilst we now know that Japan will be seeing the newer model on shelves later this month, initially there was no indication at all as to a ‘when’ for the HMD. Leading me to wonder just why on Earth they just didn’t wait for either a) the press conference SIE has scheduled at this year’s Paris Game Show, taking place on October 30th 2017, or b) at their dedicated event PlayStation Experience out in December.

It was our own Rebecca Hills-Duty who upon tweeting my confusion, pointed out that they could’ve also quite easily announced it in their presentation at the Tokyo Game Show barely over a week prior. Something that could’ve elevated that livestream for PSVR from, I guess, a lukewarm mess (as opposed to a hot mess) to something that had a bit more significance. Moreover, if Japan is indeed getting it first – wouldn’t announcing this then have actually made much more sense? Plus, you’d have more of a global audience watching then as well.

PlayStation VR 2 headsetIt’d’ve been at least treated like it meant something. Instead it kind of felt like it was hurridly shoved out like Sony were trying to disguise the fact they’d just farted by casually opening a window and frantically wafting a spec sheet behind their backs in an effort to dispel the evidence.

In a week where there’s (today) a  Microsoft Mixed Reality event taking place and we’re all wondering what’s going on with the Samsung Odyssey. Unity 17 taking place in Austin, a Google event tomorrow and even New York Comic Con the announcement will be lucky if it is playing fifth banana, much less second by the time we look back on things at the weekend.

If you treat an upgrade of your hardware, no matter how small, as something of an ‘eh, whatever’ what are people’s reactions going to be…?


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