With so little information on Sony Computer Entertainment’s (SCE) Project Morpheus virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) for PlayStation 4 having been revealed last year, this is the device that seemingly has the most ground to cover heading into 2015. It’s clear that SCE is holding back on confirming a full consumer release and the hardware hasn’t seen any kind of updates since its March 2014 reveal. But if SCE really do intend on bringing the anticipated HMD to market then it’s time to commit. No more ‘maybes’; SCE needs to prove their dedication to VR and a desire to stand right alongside Oculus VR and the Oculus Rift as VR leaders in the new year.
But while Project Morpheus might feel like it’s trailing behind the Oculus Rift, it also stands to gain the most. The situation the device is in right now feels very similar to when SCE first introduced its PlayStation Move motion controller. Fans may well recall the controller’s debut as an early prototype at E3 2009 during SCE’s press conference. Very little was heard about the device for the rest of the year before a huge blowout at 2010’s Game Developer Conference (GDC) followed up with more news at that year’s E3 before its release the following September.
It could be that Project Morpheus follows this path in 2015. GDC 2015, which takes place 2nd – 6th March, will effectively mark the one-year anniversary of the reveal of Project Morpheus, which itself was announced at GDC 2014. It would be a great time, then, to delve a little further into the technology. Perhaps not have a videogame blowout but show some updates that bring the title closer to the Oculus Rift’s Crescent Bay prototype if not besting it. After all, Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe has revealed that the company has shown SCE its latest work with requests to make sure Project Morpheus is up to a similar level.
Sticking with the Oculus Rift, SCE are also somewhat dependent on that device’s success for Project Morpheus to work. VR development on PC has been made easy thanks to affordable, accessible developer kits for the Oculus Rift. This means that a good number of indie developers are working on VR-dedicated projects. Combine that with the strides SCE has been making with bringing indie developers to PlayStation 4 over the past two years and the platform already has a long list of potential VR titles.
In fact this theory has already been proven as recently as this month when the PlayStation Experience fan event hosted the reveal of a port of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes from PC with Oculus Rift support to PlayStation 4 with Project Morpheus support. Following its reveal, SCE’s Adam Boyes noted that it had taken just a few days to port the title over to the console. Elsewhere the likes of Vanguard V and Among the Sleep paint a similar picture. Despite what many sceptics might think, content isn’t likely to be much of an issue for Project Morpheus so long as the Oculus Rift keeps providing.
That said, the kit obviously can’t get by on poaching PC VR videogames. Exclusive content is bound to be on the way but one of the key advantages SCE has with Project Morpheus is accessibility. The Oculus Rift, at this stage, will require capable PC hardware which no doubt many enthusiasts already own. But for the more mainstream audience, the prospect of simply plugging a HMD into the console that sits in the living room is surely far more appealing.
The issue SCE will really face on this front is pricing. The company has reasoned that the use of smartphone components will keep costs down but, simply put, this is one of the first times a platform owner has tried to push a major peripheral for their hardware that will likely cost upwards of $150 USD. The PlayStation 4 is still a relatively new system, but even with its competitive price of $399, the prospect of both the console and HMD is an expensive one. How will SCE be able to convince an audience larger than dedicated players that Project Morpheus is worth the investment?
It’s one of the many interesting challenges that console VR faces in 2015. But there’s a long road ahead before consumers start to even think of pricing. Project Morpheus could potentially have the most exciting year of all three consumer HMDs if SCE hits the ground running. Let’s see where 2015 takes the kit.