Horizon Call of the Mountain screenshot | Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment
In some ways, the existence of the headset matters more than the headset itself
As someone continually distracted by the promise of VR, I was pretty excited by Sony’s PlayStation VR2 announcements last night. The specs sound great. It’s nice to see a pair of first-party studios making a VR game. Having a cord is still kind of annoying, but at least it sounds like an improvement over last time, when I remember Sony reps doing whatever they could to hide the excess wires in photo shoots.
As I thought about the news, though, I realized I’m less excited about PSVR2 as a piece of new technology than I am about it as a business justification to get Sony and others to fund new VR games.
When the first PlayStation VR came around, the tech was great, but what really made it work were the deals Sony struck to get games like Resident Evil 7 and Rez Infinite on the headset, and the support Sony put behind games like Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. There could have been more support, as always, and I wasn’t wild about all the big brand spin-off games and modes, like floating awkwardly around a Tekken fight. But broadly speaking, we got a nice wave of VR experiments out of it.
And the VR market is kind of hurting for another wave right now. After Half-Life: Alyx shipped almost two years ago, we haven’t seen a lot of standout releases.
That was probably inevitable after a game that large sucks all the oxygen out of the room and makes everything else look a little less impressive, and we have seen some notable stuff like Iron Man VR, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, Demeo, Song in the Smoke, Lone Echo II, and others, so it’s not like the market is dead. But when a port of a 16-year-old game is winning VR game of the year awards (while the latest mainline game in that series dropped VR), and a port of a 17-year-old game is the biggest new announcement we’ve heard in a couple years, the lineup feels a little flat.
I don’t know what sort of push Sony will be giving PSVR2 just yet, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions. Sony is in a very different place now than it was when PSVR launched in 2016, and these things don’t tend to happen in a vacuum — Sony’s first VR push coincided with less non-VR indie support, so the money has to come from somewhere.
Seeing Horizon Call of the Mountain feels like a good first step, though. Even if that game desperately needs a colon in its title.