Sony’s PlayStation VR headset has been the centre of attention since its initial announcement back at GDC 2014. It generated much excitement as it didn’t require a high-end gaming PC to operate like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and instead would be powered by the PlayStation 4. Over two years on and the PlayStation VR headset has finally been given an official release date, UK pricing and specs, and here is where we discuss everything we know about the PlayStation VR headset. Also see: HTC Vive review
Stay tuned to PC Advisor's PlayStation VR hub - we'll update all sections as we know more. You might also want to check out our PlayStation VR hands-on review for more information about what it's like to use.
PlayStation VR at a glance
- Sony’s virtual reality headset compatible with all existing PS4 systems
- Will cost £349 in the UK, not including required PlayStation Camera
- Release date: 13 October 2016
- 50 VR projects to be available by the end of 2016
PlayStation VR UK release date and pre-orders: When is PlayStation VR coming out?
The biggest question is “When will I be able to buy the PlayStation VR?” and prior to the announcement, rumours were rife. VRSE, a company that produces VR content, suggested that we’d be seeing the PlayStation VR as soon as April 2016, which got everyone excited. The ‘leak’ fell into Sony’s “First half of 2016” release date window announced in 2015, making it that little bit more believable.
US retailer GameSpot then waded in, claiming that we won’t actually be seeing the Sony manufactured virtual reality headset until Autumn 2016. While many initially brushed the rumour aside, it appears that the company was right.
Sony held a PlayStation VR-themed event on 15 March during GDC 2016 (Game Developers Conference) and while many assumed the company would talk about VR projects in the pipeline, that wasn’t the case. In fact, Sony CEO Andrew House stepped out and announced that the PlayStation VR headset will be available to buy in the UK from October 2016.
(Sony is holding a PlayStation event on 7 September, but we expect it to use this to unveil the new PS4 NEO.)
An October 2016 release puts the PlayStation VR six months behind the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, arguably Sony’s biggest VR competitors. Although with this being said, it could be a smart decision from Sony – allow Oculus and HTC to take the brunt of early VR issues, then step in later in the year with a polished product.
This was followed up at E3 2016 where Sony revealed that users would be able to get their hands on the PlayStation VR headset from 13 October 2016, along with a number of 'great games and experiences' it has lined up for its first fortay into the world of virtual reality.
In terms of pre-orders, interested parties can pre-order a PlayStation VR headset on Amazon or GAME for £349.99 or, if you prefer the personal touch, users can also head into physical GAME stores (not available online) and pre-order the headset - although you'll have to put down a £5 deposit at least. While US pre-orders seemed to sell out within seconds, users in the UK are still able to pre-order the headset. What isn't clear from either Amazon or GAME is whether those that pre-order now will still recieve the headset on its launch date, or whether they'll be waiting weeks, or even months for the headset to arrive.
PlayStation VR UK price, release date and specs: Podcast discussion
Everything you need to know about PlayStation VR in episode 22 of the UK Tech Weekly Podcast.
PlayStation VR first impressions: What's it like to use PlayStation VR?
We recently went hands-on with the PlayStation VR headset for the first time, and we were pleasantly surprised by the experience it provides - especially when you consider that it's powered by a standard PlayStation 4 console and nothing more. While it isn't as graphically impressive as something produced by a high-end PC on the HTC Vive, it's a great introduction to high-end VR for PlayStation users around the world.
To read more about what we thought about the PlayStation VR, take a look at our PlayStation VR hands-on review.
Update (08/09/2016): Sony has officially announced the PlayStation 4 Pro, a more powerful PS4 variant that provides users with higher quality graphics, and even 4K HDR output for those that can take advantage of it. It also comes with a redesign, new controllers and a larger hard drive. That's not all though, as it has been claimed that the PlayStation 4 Pro will provide users with a more immersive, higher quality experience than that provided by the standard PlayStation 4.
To learn more about the PlayStation 4 Pro, take a look at this: PlayStation 4 Pro release date, pricing, features and spec
PlayStation VR UK price and pre-orders: How much will PlayStation VR cost?
We’ve known for quite some time that the PlayStation VR headset will cost less than the £499 Oculus Rift, but no one was sure of exactly how much it’d cost. Our first clue was when Swiss retailer Microspot prematurely uploaded its PlayStation VR headset product page, which included a price of 498 Swiss Francs, which equates to around £360. While many claimed that it was just a placeholder and that Microspot had no insider information, it turned out to be quite accurate.
During the PlayStation VR event at GDC 2016, Sony CEO Andrew House announced that the PlayStation VR headset will set gamers back £349, £150 less than the £499 Oculus Rift and over £200 cheaper than the £689 HTC Vive – in fact, HTC’s offering costs almost double the amount of Sony’s headset. Amazon is already accepting pre-orders for the PlayStation VR headset ahead of its October 2016 release, which can be found here for £349.99. Amazon isn't the only option though - Zavvi is also accepting pre-orders for the PlayStation VR headset which can be found here.
While the price point attracted applause from those present at the event, all was not as it seemed as the CEO left out one vital piece of information. Yes the PlayStation VR headset will cost £349 in the UK, but it doesn’t come with a PlayStation Camera, a vital element that’s required for VR use. The official PlayStation 4 Camera costs £39 on Amazon at the time of writing, which brings the total cost of the PlayStation VR headset to £389 – still a competitive price for a VR headset, but not as cheap as first thought. If buying the headset and camera separately isn't for you, you'll be happy to know that Zavvi is offering a PlayStation VR & PlayStation Camera bundle for £399.98, which can be found here.
It’s the same story with the PlayStation Move controllers, although these aren’t required to use the VR headset as all VR content will be compatible with Sony’s DualShock 4 controller. We’re not sure whether Sony will be using the PlayStation 3 Move Controllers or if it’ll release PlayStation 4 Move Controllers closer to the VR headset debut, but at the time of writing only PS3 variants can be found online.
PlayStation VR hardware and specifications: What to expect from PlayStation VR
Below we'll tell you what to expect from the PlayStation VR, but you really need to see it for yourself. Sony has announced that it will be bringing PlayStation VR demos to 500,000 shops in June in the US, with the UK shortly behind. GameStop will be a key launch partner for Sony in the States, but the PlayStation VR will also be demoed in stores showing the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift - hopefully we get the same treatment here soon!
We talked about all the latest PlayStation news in our podcast. Listen here:
The final version of the PlayStation VR headset showcased at GDC 2016 boasts pretty impressive specs, which should get prospective VR gamers excited. For one, it boasts a 5.7in 1920x1080 full-HD OLED display, equating to 960x1080 per eye. The high-quality display coupled with a 100-degree field of view and an 18ms response time should provide users with an experience indistinguishable from real life – according to the Sony CEO anyway.
However, despite being lower resolution than both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the PlayStation VR headset may win in one area in particular - Screen Door Effect (or SDE for short) removal. But what is SDE? Simply put, SDE describes the visible gaps between individual pixels which appear when looking closely at a display, like those used in VR headsets. The effect can lead to something as dramatic as the below photo in VR, which looks almost like a screen mesh to keep out bugs in the Summer, and can hinder the ability to read text and break immersion.
So how has Sony gone about removing SDE as best as it can from PlayStation VR? Unlike the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift that feature a PenTile display which offers two subpixels per pixel, Sony opted for an RGB display that offers three RGB subpixels for every pixel on the display, negating the effect. Counting subpixels, the Rift and Vive feature roughly 5,184,000 subpixels while the PlayStation VR features around 20 percent more at 6,220,800. While it may not be an issue for short stints in VR, it could make all the difference in extended gameplay sessions.
Sony's virtual reality headset features a 120Hz refresh rate and thus has the potential to render games at 120fps, which is notably higher than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive's 90Hz offering.
Combined with a powerful PS4 console and the OLED screen's high refresh rate, Sony says PlayStation VR will offer "amazingly smooth visuals". Although what the firm forgot to mention was that the VR headset won’t be powered by the PS4 – not by itself, anyway. Instead, PSVR owners will have to make some room for an additional box that’ll connect to the PS4 and provide most of the processing power for the virtual reality headset. The box will also provide a ‘standard’ output for the TV, giving your friends a good idea of what’s going on inside the headset, as if you were playing a normal PS4 game.
The PlayStation 4 system is easily able to track movement thanks to built-in accelerometers and LED side lights detectable by a connected PlayStation camera. Sony claims that the PlayStation Camera can track the PSVR headset up to 1,000 times per second, which should provide gamers with a beautifully seamless experience.
It also allows users to turn their heads 360 degrees in-game, allowing gamers to look behind them when inevitably being chased by a weapon-wielding enemy. This is possible thanks to sensors on the back of the headset, which lets the system know when you’re looking behind you.
Much like Valve and HTC's Vive, the PlayStation VR headset will track your location within a physical space, allowing you to walk around your virtual world. However while that sounds great, it's not as advanced as the high-end 5x5m Room Scale tracking system used by the Vive. In fact, while the PlayStation VR can track your movement, you can only move around three steps in any direction before you go out of range and lose tracking altogether.
This is because the tracking system relies on the PlayStation VR camera and as soon as you're out of view of said camera, you'll see a message pop up in front of you prompting you to go move back to where it can track you once again. Sony officially acknowledges the fact that the PlayStation VR will track your movement, but says that many of the games are intended for sit-down use so there won't be much need for movement tracking. In a statement issued to Popular Science, Sony said the following:
"We have some tech demos that allowed users to play while standing up, however all the PS VR titles we plan to release in the future will recommend that users remain seated. We will announce further details of guidelines or regulations when ready."
While that is impressive, it’s worth noting that Sony's own vice president Masayasu Ito recently suggested that Sony's offering may not be able to compete with premium headsets. "If you just talk about the high-end quality, yes, I would admit that Oculus may have better VR," Ito said, talking to Polygon. "However, it requires a very expensive and very fast PC. The biggest advantage for Sony is our headset works with PS4. It's more for everyday use, so it has to be easy to use and it has to be affordable. This is not for the person who uses a high-end PC. It's for the mass market".
While the Oculus Rift costs £499 and the HTC Vive costs £689, Sony's virtual reality offering costs considerably less at £349. Plus, the Rift and Vive require powerful PCs to run VR content while the PlayStation VR headset will be compatible with any of the 36 million PS4 consoles on the market.
However, despite comments from Sony's own vice president regarding the quality of the PSVR experience, global head of marketing and sales Jim Ryan wants to dispell the rumours and confirmed that all current PSVR demos, like those at E3 2016, are all powered by standard PS4s and not the upcoming PS4.5 'Neo'. He urges both prospective PSVR users and critics alike to go to one of the PSVR demoes and make up their own minds and not listen to rumours.
"Go to our room and check out the VR games and make up your own mind,” he told MVC at E3 2016. “That’s for you and others to decide upon. We are completely confident that the line-up of 50 games - plus some of which was announced yesterday, which was serious in terms of heavyweight IP – that those games are going to provide a first class VR experience. What we can say is that we have a fertile ground of 40m PS4s, all of which will run PlayStation VR."
While the PlayStation VR will be great for VR games, what about standard games and the likes of Netflix? Will these also be enjoyed in virtual reality? While we had no official confirmation until now, Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan has released new details on the upcoming headset, including a few tidbits about how the cinematic mode will work.
PlayStation VR allows users to play almost every standard PS4 game with PlayStation VR - and before you ask, no, it won't turn the game into a VR game. Instead, it'll offer users the opportunity to sit in a huge virtual cinema and play their games on the big screen.
According to the blog post and the below image, the PSVR system will come with three different screen size preferences - small, medium and large. The large preset is the equivalent of sitting in front of a 226in screen, while the medium and small presets will immerse the user in a dark virtual space with a display in front of them.
It's not just PS4 games that are compatible either, as PSVR usres will also be able to watch TV shows and movies with streaming apps like Netflix. Essentially, you'll have your own virtual private cinema for gaming and movies - pretty cool, right?
Read next: Best VR headsets to buy in the UK 2016
PlayStation VR accessories: Which accessories will I be able to use with PlayStation VR?
With regards to controllers and accessories, the PlayStation VR will primarily use the DualShock 4 controller as it’s a familiar controller for PS4 gamers, allowing them to game without looking at which buttons to press (which is even harder with a headset on!). It’s also because DualShock 4 controllers feature motion sensors, and can be tracked by the PlayStation camera. This gives developers more creativity when developing ways for gamers to interact with the game, and should bring something new and interesting to the table.
PlayStation VR accessories: PlayStation Move batons
Using a DualShock 4 controller isn’t the only way to interact with the virtual world, though. Sony is also planning to utilise the PlayStation Move Batons, accessories from Sony’s earlier motion-control system from the days of the PlayStation 3 that many had written off. The Batons allow players to control both their characters and environments via gestures rather than traditional button presses, and looks to provide users with a more immersive and interactive experience than when using a DualShock 4 controller alone.
However, if early hands-on reports are to be believed, the combination of PSVR and Move batons may not be as immersive as originally thought. Writing on Venture Beat, Jeff Grubb says that after using the Move batons at E3, he couldn’t “stop thinking about how lackluster Sony’s motion controllers feel compared to what HTC and Oculus are bringing”.
Grubb claims that the inaccuracy of the Move batons is “worrisome” and that while he was playing the upcoming Final Fantasy XV VR experience at E3 2016, he pointed his gun directly at his target in the real world, but his gun fired up and to the right in-game. Sony has never claimed 1:1 tracking with the Move batons, but is something that the company should strive towards when the PSVR system is likely to be the first VR experience many have.
"The Move was always better than the first generation of the Wii, but when it comes to accurately translating my motion into in-game action, it disappoints compared to Vive or the Oculus Touch."
It’s not just 1:1 tracking where the Move apparently falls flat on its face – the Move is also the “least comfortable VR controller” when compared to the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, too. Shifting your grip in VR is a fairly common thing, as you’ll be simulating a number of different objects – guns, swords, mobile phones, etc – and while this is natural when using the Vive controllers, the same can’t be said for the Move batons. “I found that when I tried to shift my grip from making a fist to holding a gun, the controller was unnatural and flimsy.” Grubb commented. “For me, this caused some actual pain, and I felt like the controller was going to slip from my grasp.”
We went hands on with the PlayStation VR headset, complete with Move batons, shortly after the report criticising the Move batons went online and we must say, we disagree. Sure, while we will freely admit that the Move batons do not boast 1:1 tracking and can't match the HTC Vive's responsiveness, it's far from offering a sub-par experience.
We used the Move batons while taking part in a London Heist demo where we found ourselves in the passenger seat of a car being attacked by gangsters in Land Rovers and on motorbikes armed with an SMG for defence. Reaching out for the SMG on the dashboard felt natural, and the manual reloading of the gun made the simulation feel even more real. We did temporarily lose tracking during our demo, but this was because we moved too far and the PlayStation Camera lost sight of us, and in a home environment it'd be set up for your environment so that wouldn't happen (we should think, anyway!).
We'll be going thoroughly hands-on with the PlayStation VR in the coming weeks, so make sure you head back for our first impressions at a later date.
PlayStation VR accessories: PS VR Aim Controller
Following Sony’s E3 2016 press conference where the company showcased a number of launch PSVR games, the gaming giant also quietly announced the PS VR Aim controller – a new Move-esque controller designed specifically for use with VR sci-fi shooter Farpoint, but might not be used for anything else in future.
Many fans are comparing the Aim controller with the Sharp Shooter gun accessory which launched alongside Killzone 3, designed to emulate an assault rifle, however Sony’s latest offering is simplistic and designed to be used with a variety of VR-enabled weapons. Its design allows it to be used pushed into the shoulder like when using a rifle (which also allows you to look down the scope of the gun!), as well as being comfortable to hold when hip-firing.
Despite looking simplistic, the PS VR Aim controller boasts the same buttons as a DualShock 4 controller. This includes two triggers, two bumpers, two analogue sticks, a D-Pad, Share and Options buttons, a button emulating the Touch Pad and of course, X, O, Triangle and Square buttons, providing gamers with a way to perform the same actions you’d normally perform in-game when using the Aim controller.
There isn’t any pricing or release date information available at this time, but we expect the PS VR Aim controller to be out in time for Christmas alongside the recently announced Farpoint for PSVR. We also hope that the Aim will be compatible with other PS VR FPS games, but this has yet to be confirmed.
PlayStation VR accessory rumours: Patent suggests Sony is developing VR gloves
It seems that Sony may have another trick up its sleeve if recent patents are anything to go by. According to patents published by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Sony has plans for sensor-clad gloves that could be used to track your hand movement in a virtual space. Both HTC and Oculus are working on bespoke handheld controllers for their virtual reality systems, while Sony (up until now) is only offering DualShock 4 & PlayStation Move support. Sony's VR gloves can be used to measure not only position but movement and pressure too, according to submitted documents.
While it's worth noting that not all technology described in patents will ever see the light of day, this at least demonstrates that Sony is willing to develop new ways to interact with the virtual world around you. It's not only for gaming either - according to the patent, the gloves could be used to navigate menus in a similar way to Tom Cruise in Minority Report - cool, eh?
(See also: Samsung Gear VR release date, price and specs.)
PlayStation VR games: Which PS4 games work with PlayStation VR?
Sony announced at its event at GDC 2016 in San Francisco that the company has over 230 developers working on content for the PlayStation VR headset. It’s also claimed that even though the headset isn’t expected out until October 2016, there will be 50 VR ‘projects’ readily available by the end of 2016, three months later. Here’s a list of current PS4 games that are PlayStation VR compatible, and in-development games expected to be compatible with PlayStation VR (via IGN):
Atom Universe; Adrift; ARK: Survival Evolved; Among the Sleep; The Assembly; Battlezone; The Deep; Dreams; EVE: Valkyrie; Futuridium; Get Even; GNOG; Godling; Harmonix Music VR; Headmaster; Jurassic Encounter; Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes; Kitchen (demo); Loading Human; The London Heist; Mind: Path to Talamus; Omega Agent; Paranormal Activity VR; The Playroom VR; Project CARS; Q.U.B.E.²; RIGS: Mechanized Combat League; Summer Lesson; Superhypercube; Surgeon Simulator; Synthesis Universe; Technolust; Trackmania Turbo; Vanguard V; VizionEck; War Thunder; Wayward Sky; World War Toons.
Batman: Arkham VR
Final Fantasy XV: VR Experience
Read next: The most anticipated games of 2016
PlayStation VR videos
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