Back in October, we took an in-depth look at Sony's VR headset for the PlayStation 4, the appropriately named PlayStation VR. After looking at most of the launch lineup of games and experiences, I came away pretty impressed, but I also said, "If you don't like video games, don't invest much in virtual reality — yet."
Since then, Sony has sold more than 1 million PSVR headsets, outpacing its most direct competition (the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive).
I also scared a lot of my co-workers by making them play Resident Evil 7 in VR, which was a lot of fun for everybody involved.
So have things changed? If you've held off on buying the PSVR before now, has the time come to jump in? Let's see.
Recent PSVR releases
There's no way around the fact that VR games — no matter the platform — aren't being released at nearly the pace of non-VR video games. And in 2017 in particular, there have been a lot of great non-VR games to occupy yourself with. PS4 owners can spend plenty of time and money on hits like Horizon, the aforementioned Resident Evil 7, Persona 5 and Prey. And if you want to branch out a bit, the Nintendo Switch is winning hearts with Zelda.
So has anyone needed a VR headset to enjoy video games in the past six months? Not at all. Unless, perhaps, you're a hard-core Star Trek fan.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew is one of the most high-profile VR games released this year. It's a multiplayer game that puts you in a seat on a Federation starship. Either alone or with up to three friends, you'll be managing power levels, firing photon torpedoes, hailing other ships, beaming up allies and more.
To some (including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story writer Gary Whitta), it's one of the best Star Trek experiences you can have anywhere.
It gets off to a slow start (especially alone), but it does offer a pretty great sense of place — as long as the place you most want to be is on the bridge of the Enterprise.
One of the best parts about Bridge Crew is that its online multiplayer supports cross-play, so you can play with friends and strangers even if they own a VR headset that's not connected to a PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, finding a full game at random is still a rare occurrence, but the lack of a wall helps.
Other notable (and enjoyable) recent releases have been Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin (which is short and light on actual "gameplay," but it's funny), Resident Evil 7 (the entirety of which can be played in VR, and it's all the more terrifying for it) and Farpoint, which brings us to ...
Accessories on top of accessories
PSVR already introduces a lot of cables into your living room, and in many cases it requires a fair amount of space in which to move around.
So what should we do to improve the experience? Add more accessories, obviously.
Farpoint, a first-person sci-fi shooter, does this with the Aim Controller. It's a large but impressively lightweight gun controller, held with two hands, that provides a one-to-one virtual translation of your physical aiming to the game.
It sounds gimmicky, but there is something legitimately cool about holding something shaped like a futuristic rifle that actually looks, in virtual reality, like a futuristic rifle. Turn it over in your hands, point it in all directions and the gun does exactly what you'd want it to. It comes at a cost ($59.99 sold alone, but available in a bundle with the game for $79.99, which is a much better deal), but the accessory helps immerse you in a story about shooting aliens on a foreign planet more than I expected it to.
Currently the Aim Controller is a one-off, but at least one more PSVR game, ROM Extraction, will use it.
On the much higher end of the accessory price scale is the VirZoom, an exercise bike available for most VR platforms (PSVR, Oculus, Vive and soon, Gear VR). Though a cheaper option is coming for existing exercise bike owners, at present the VirZoom is a $400 stationary bike (on top of your $400 headset and $250+ PS4) that makes working out more fun by gamifying it. Through the power of virtual reality, peddling the VirZoom bike can allow you to fly a pegasus, ride a horse, drive a racecar or blow up tanks.
In my experience, it can be a blast and is an effective way of getting a lazy nerd like me to move his legs, but it also takes up a lot of space.
(We're putting the VirZoom through its paces in the GuideLive office and will have more to say about it soon.)
The immediate future
At the Electronic Entertainment Expo earlier this month, Sony made it clear that it's not abandoning the virtual reality ship.
Many popular VR games currently available on PC, including Raw Data and Superhot VR, are coming to PSVR soon. It also announced new and promising games, like Moss (which stars a pretty adorable mouse hero) and Star Child, being developed by McKinney-based Playful Corp.
Oh, and then there's a potentially big one: Skyrim VR. Skyrim, a gigantic, open fantasy world that gamers have wanted to experience in VR for ages, could sell a lot of people on VR based on the name alone. It will be the entire game (hundreds upon hundreds of hours of RPG content to play through), but notably, it won't be an entire game built from the ground up to be experienced in VR. It will be interesting to see if people will spend as many marathon hours with this version of Skyrim as they have with the others.
The promising but more distant future
Even the biggest proponents of VR will admit one of the medium's biggest flaws: We need to lose the cords. Putting a bulky headset over your eyes is one thing, but it's still a huge pain to have to step over bulky cables whenever you're moving around too much while playing a game.
Cordless VR will happen, but not soon. Especially not at a consumer level. PSVR remains the cheapest and most user-friendly of the "hard-core" VR headsets, but it's still far more invasive and more intimidating than Samsung's Gear VR, which only requires you to slide a smartphone into a lightweight piece of headgear.
PSVR's resolution and controller options also remain at the back of the pack when compared to similar offerings on PCs, making it a bad first choice for anybody who wants to get into VR and has a lot of money to spend.
So what's the new verdict?
Honestly, it hasn't changed much. Unless you're very excited about video games and have a lot of disposable income, VR probably isn't for you quite yet, fun as it is.
But it's also not going away. While some investors are starting to run away from the industry as they realize it won't make anybody a quick buck, analysts are still predicting VR growth over the next several years. Facebook is still invested in it, Microsoft is dipping its toes in and game publishers like Bethesda still see potential.
If you bought a PSVR at launch like I did? The good news is that Sony seems dedicated to putting out a lot of promising games over the next year, so we have a lot to look forward to.
Some of you should hop into the VR water with us, because the water is fine. Others, though, can keep waiting for a bit.