Samuel Brace on whether PlayStation VR will kill Xbox…
Both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have been on the market for almost two years now and they are doing exceptionally well. With both consoles outpacing their last generation counterparts — Ps3 and Xbox 360 — console gaming is looking pretty darn good right now. One of these two consoles however is doing far better than the other. PlayStation is killing the game, and with the impending arrival of VR into our lives could this help them to land the coup de grace to win this race once and for all?
PlayStation has opened quite the gap between itself and its arch rival, already outselling the likes of GameCube, the original Xbox, while fast approaching the figures of the Nintendo 64 — an impressive feat so early in its life cycle. Xbox One is doing great, there’s no doubt about that, but it is being beaten and being beaten hard. Microsoft did themselves no favours of course when releasing their product to the world, handing the advantage right over to Sony by putting out a confusing message as to what they wanted their console to be, but since that time they have rectified things very well. Under the leadership of Phil Spencer things have improved, image wise they are now in a place that they should have been when the console dropped. They have put their fans at the forefront of seemingly everything they are doing, listening to their wants and desires by implementing sought after features such as backwards compatibility; something Ps4 does not have.
Things are unequivocally going in the right direction for Xbox but the damage has been done and it’s been done by a console that has been cruising in 3rd gear. Ps4 hasn’t been able to implement features like backwards compatibility, as of now they haven’t listened to their fans and given them things like the ability to change their PSN names. And when it comes down to what really matters, the reason while we are all here — the games — Ps4 has been plodding along in that department too. There is no arguing the fact that so far Xbox has had the bigger exclusives — at least on paper — but somehow Sony and PlayStation are still slaying all that is around them, pushing asinine amounts of hardware even without the games that typically sell consoles. Why this is the case is hard to say but what isn’t nebulous, what is obvious beyond all else, is that Xbox have to act and they have to act now.
Xbox One has managed to assemble quite the line up of exclusives coming into this holiday season. With games like Halo 5, the Gears collection, Tomb Raider and Forza, they are in a place that PlayStation simply are not. They have titles that typically should be able to move hardware, without even considering bundles that might include third party games like Fallout 4. So now is most certainly the time to grab the proverbial bull by the proverbial horns and start hacking away at that gap. It is imperative that Xbox win perhaps two of the last three months of the year, perhaps even all three. As of writing this we have learned that the Microsoft console has claimed victory over the month of October, a great start but this has to continue otherwise they are going to be in trouble. If they can’t gain some ground now, if they can’t win these months when all is in their favour, when can they? If we do arrive at 2016 with this situation not presenting itself, then what does that say about this current console war? Perhaps it may already be over, and with a certain new feature on the horizon, perhaps it could be over for good.
If PlayStation are vanquishing their competitors without such a line up, without the marquee titles that Xbox can boast in 2015, what will happen when PlayStation VR rolls around? VR is a divisive subject, a tech that many have a deep-seated antipathy towards, but one that also has many championing its impending arrival as a true game changer. The success of VR — whether it be Sony’s product or Oculus or whoever — depends on a lot of things, there are a lot of factors at play that will determine its fate one way or the other. But if PlayStation VR is even remotely successful then it will be just another reason to buy PlayStation and not Xbox.
The difference between Ps VR and the Oculus Rift can be found in every hardware manufacturer’s favourite word: exclusivity. PlayStation VR, as its name implies, only works with Sony’s console, it is a product designed for the PlayStation 4. Oculus isn’t the same. The Rift is a product owned by Facebook that works across platforms, mainly for high end PC’s but also compatible with Xbox by way of streaming. Any success the Oculus Rift may have will therefore inevitably be split amongst benefactors. PlayStation’s product however will not share this problem. Even if VR isn’t insanely popular, say if the games aren’t quite there, the world’s imagination isn’t quite captured; PlayStation having exclusivity with their own product will be just another check towards Sony when deciding which console to buy. Say however, if VR takes off like a rocket, if PlayStation provide its vast user base with a plethora of great games to play with their new toy, we could be dealing with a very different animal, and it could be game changing.
Imagine a near future when all anyone wants to play is VR and where the best line up of games for this new way of life can be found on PlayStation. What does this mean for Xbox? If VR headsets are being ripped off the shelves by ravenous console gamers, with Sony’s 30 million plus consoles already placed snugly in homes around the world, how can Xbox One ever hope to gain any traction? How can they hope to compete at all? If VR becomes the success that many believe it will be — not all but many — what will be the incentive for the undecided to go with Xbox? If all your friends won’t stop going on about the joys of Ps VR, what are you going to do? I’ll tell you what you’re going to do, you’re going to head on down to your nearest retailer and pick yourself up a VR headset, and it’s going to be PlayStation’s — the (potential) Xbox killer.
There are a lot of ‘what if’s’ and ‘imagine a world where’ in all of this, I know that. What actually happens with VR will remain to be seen. But whether it’s a small amount of success that VR finds or a world breaking titan, if Sony do things right, if they provide the games that people want to play, they will be the ones smiling when all is said and done. Sure Xbox can benefit, especially if they someday decide to make Oculus a peripheral to their latest console, but will it be too late by then? The gap is already vast; can they afford to let it get wider still? Can they actually do anything about it? Gamer’s minds seem — by and large — to be already made up. The many have decided that PlayStation will be their home during this generation. Will VR be the product that settles things once and for all? We will have to wait and see. Interesting times lie ahead, for that there is no doubt. Until those times arrive however, Xbox better win 2015’s remaining two months. That is if they’ll have any chance at all.