Is Sony’s PlayStation VR worth buying without a killer app?

Sony PSVR Worth it

Any new hardware comes with some awesome piece of software – so good, that it sells it. These days, this is often called “the killer app”. For Nintendo 64 it was “Super Mario 64”, for the Xbox it was “Halo” and even the Wii had its “Wii Sports”. And the best way to show off the power of a new gaming platform is through its games. But, when it comes to PlayStation VR by Sony – there really is no killer app. So what exactly is supposed to sell the PSVR? The answer is simple – the sense of Presence!


The head of PlayStation’s “Magic Lab”, the experimental segment of the Sony’s R&D department, Richard Marks, states that PlayStation VR does not need “the Killer App”. He further explains, that the feeling of unique presence, you will experience, is more than enough to measure the quality of the hardware.

The feeling of being transported somewhere else and feeling in fact like you are there, is presence – the main aspect, that will attract you to go for the PlayStation VR. This is an interesting approach to virtual reality gaming and leads a whole new direction – focusing on presence instead of a single application, is what might bring PlayStation VR on the top.


Richard Marks with PlayStation VR


What is VR really – Presence or Immersion?

Going more into detail, Marks explained the components and what it takes to build a sense of Presence – divided into 5 categories:


  1. Static image quality: fidelity of the images on the screen – whether you can see the individual pixels or not;
  2. Head tracking: changing the screen as you move your head in different directions; headsets failure will cause disorientation and nausea;
  3. Hand and body awareness: feeling the headset on you like it is a part of your body – looking down your hands you will see your characters hands;
  4. Environmental response: as you move, the world around you stays constant – placing an object somewhere will remain at the same place;
  5. Social: exchanging experiences with other people – discussing it will make it even more real.


Virtual Reality Presence


But the mystery of Immersion still remains


What is immersion in video games?

There are three types of immersion: Tactical, Strategic and Narrative. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.


  1. Tactical Immersion: the most common form, that people feel when gaming – being in the zone, feeling that everything is as you hope and imagine.
  2. Strategic Immersion: making mental decisions, like in a game of chess, managing resources and multitasking.
  3. Narrative Immersion: getting invested in a games story. It can happen in many ways and is not obvious to the player at all times. Even in games, which might not look like they are much story driven.


Virtual Reality Immersion


The publishers of the “Patterns in Game Design” – Staffan Bjork and Jussi Holopainen have similar explanations of Immersion, but use different names for them, as their approach is more scientific – motoric, cognitive, emotional and spatial immersion (Marks’s point of view).
The opinions are still divided – is a killer app needed or is the Presence itself enough to make gamers buy the PlayStation VR?


“Presence is the killer app”


Marks’s approach is worth considering, because it is often not enough for one game to convince you. The whole concept behind VR experiences and the point of virtual reality is to create the feeling of presence and “being in the moment”.


The launch of PlayStation VR is set to be this October for the price of $399. Only after that date, the world will see if Marks’s theory pans out.

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