As gamers, we really hope VR takes off. Oculus Rift has impressed us since we first put the virtual reality headset on and back in March, Sony announced Project Morpheus, their own brand of VR headset that would let PS4 gamers to get involved. Which, speaking as a non PC gamer, was music to my ears as I was getting dangerously close to investing in a rig so I could play with an Oculus Rift.
But is Project Morpheus doomed to follow the disturbing pattern Sony has dragged itself through over the last few years? The main PlayStation consoles have been huge successes of course; I’m talking about the state of affairs for the PS Move controllers and the PS Vita.
The Move controller is a quality piece of hardware, proving to be a big step up from the original concept of the EyeToy on PS2 and the Wii’s controller on Nintendo’s mega-hit console. The Sports Champions games are up there with the very best of motion-controlled games and even Killzone 3 works really well with the motion/nav stick setup. But thanks to the scarcity of releases, I really have to think hard about what other games I enjoyed with the Move. It failed to get the support it so badly deserved from third-party developers, who were cautious to invest in development of anything more complicated than party minigames.
As that third-party support dried up, Sony also abandoned the development of any future projects, with Project Dawn being scrapped until its recent PS4 rebirth -sans PS Move control. This lethargic attitude to the Move controllers has carried over to the PS4, where they can only be used if gamers stump up the extra cash (£40-£60) on a new camera. But with Just Dance 2014 being the only big name title to support this setup, it’s no wonder there’s a sense of trepidation amongst gamers when faced with investing in more new hardware.
Then there’s the PS Vita, which has seen a similar lack of support. Sony themselves have admitted that making AAA titles on the device just isn’t feasible anymore, so forget about seeing that sequel to Uncharted: Golden Abyss or maybe even the very quiet of late, Gravity Rush 2.
The Vita has become a champion for indie games or niche Japanese RPGs, but very little else. Sony couldn’t even be bothered giving it a mention during this year’s E3 or Gamescom presentations aside from the PlayStation TV device, which itself discourages a purchase of the handheld. They’ve even gone quiet on pimping out the handheld for remote play on the PS4 -probably because it’s a bit rubbish.
We still have no idea when Morpheus is coming or how much it’ll cost. But we know that we’ll need the PS4 camera to work it, so you may as well hold out on that purchase in case there’s a discounted bundle available for Morpheus’ launch.
After a reveal this year, we have to wonder why Morpheus played no part of the stage presentations at E3 and Gamescom. Doesn’t Sony want to build up any momentum ahead of release? Or is that date so far away they don’t deem such efforts worthy? The device was playable on the show floor at GC, but the muted response so far indicates that the demos on show were old ones that have already been covered in the past.
Sony’s history indicates that if the headset isn’t an immediate success, they will again drop support for it. We’re excited about VR for the big-brand games like Far Cry, Killzone, FIFA, Mirror’s Edge and so on, but the device will have do well to encourage porting compatibility or the development of exclusive titles. As we’ve seen with the Vita and Move though, third-party devs won’t want to invest in a product that even Sony can’t muster an enthusiastic showing for.
All of this evidence makes Project Morpheus a very risky investment indeed. Twice-burned gamers will perhaps wait to see how support for Morpheus pans out before buying and that caution could slow down sales and push Sony towards cutting their losses once again.
Don’t get me wrong, I want Project Morpheus to be amazing and a proper ‘oh my god this is the future!’ lasting movement that potentially changes the way we play our games. And it really could be, but Sony are going to have work harder than they ever have before at nailing some unique experiences and showing some enthusiasm for their own product and not abandoning it like they’ve done with the Vita and Move.