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VR vs. Get With The Pro-gram

Oh Sony. It seems I am destined to talk about what you’re doing and not doing for yet another month. I honest to goodness would love to talk about something else. Anything else. I was hoping to talk a little about a matter someone mentioned in the comments that I thought would make a good column. Namely games series which would transition well not to virtual reality (VR) but to augmented reality (AR). Sounds like a good topic of discussion right? But then… oh then my friends I sit down to begin my working day and we’ve got a double whammy of PSVR/PlayStation 4 Pro commentary from two interviews in two languages via two publications in two different countries. But did they actually do anything to address the confusion and some people are feeling with regards to the PlayStation 4 Pro – formerly the PlayStation Neo? (You realise we could have had a Neo and a Morpheus don’t you? If only there’d been something to complete the… trinity.) Well let’s see.

So, to break things down: the PlayStation VR. It’s out soon. Very soon. You should consider buying one because its great. Even though, as stated before in this weekly jumble of words, to my mind Sony have not done nearly enough to promote it.  You can add to that that now as we enter the home stretch its position in the spotlight in the run up to launch has arguably been stolen by a new version of Sony’s PlayStation 4 hardware. The aforementioned PlayStation 4 Pro. It can process more, and it has better graphics. It’s faster than a speeding bullet. It can leap tall buildings in a single bound. It can eat lightning and crap thunder. It’s imbued with the powers of Castle Greyskull – or is that Pianoblackskull? It’s like the PS4 – but better, basically. You’re welcome to look up the specs.

PS4Pro-5

People have, naturally enough, looked at PS4 Pro in conjunction with the PSVR and done so with a degree of scepticism. You have a new peripheral coming out that my existing PS4 can use and juuuust before the peripheral comes out you have a new shinier version of the main hardware. Communication on this relationship hasn’t been that good up to now.

“Are you absolutely sure this doesn’t mean I need this to play PlayStation VR?”

A simple question that wasn’t exactly met with enthusiasm in answering in the run up to its reveal and glossed over to a degree afterwards. Now of course, you and I know that the answer to that question was “no you can use a regular PS4”. Because of course it is. All those PSVR developers didn’t develop their games on PlayStation 4 Pro’s cunningly disguised as regular PS4s. They didn’t demonstrate the game at events with the PSVR wires going into hollow plastic PS4 shells, only to come out unseen at the bottom and down into equally and magically unseen PS4 Pro hardware hidden inside the display stand.

Thankfully for all concerned someone has actually made Sony address this, MCV getting Jim Ryan, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s (SIE’s) Global Head of Marketing and Sales to utter the magic words that everyone needs to hear.

“…We absolutely maintain the primary platform for PlayStation VR is the standard PS4. All 40m of them are capable of a great VR experience. It’s very important that people are clear about that. ”

Indeed, it is VERY important that people are clear about that. Which is why, again, I’m left wondering why Sony isn’t saying so with a tad more enthusiasm. ‘There are 40 million of our machines out there capable of supporting this fantastic new hardware, allowing VR into the home without the need for a fancy PC’.  Still, with a straight answer at last we can at least draw a line under that and say it’s over and done wit-

“An enhanced VR experience will be possible through PS4 Pro.”

Ah, damn it.

Now this isn’t exactly that much of a surprise. You don’t put a more powerful machine out and have it perform exactly the same. There is though a two word question that immediately follows that: “Okay, how?” Because whilst there’s nothing wrong with having the PlayStation 4 Pro provide a better PSVR experience how it provides a better experience and to what degree are very important questions. It was a statement shared by Shuhei Yoshida in an interview shared yesterday by VRFocus, although Yoshida was thankfully more forthcoming on details. Noting that PlayStation VR will gain a graphical crispness, though not an increase in resolution and that elements such as lighting will make games look “more beautiful”.

PlayStationVR_130906_3

So it’ll process graphics a bit better. Maybe. Well that’s a darn sight more information than we had at the start of yesterday at least. But again we’re left floating in limbo with specifics. There’s no confirmed facts or figures relating to PSVR usage. No idea of how things work exactly and to what degree they will be better. There’s no side-by-side comparison. Moreover Sony didn’t come out on their own accord and say things, to set the record straight – nor for some reason just say it when everything was being announced for the PlayStation 4 Pro so there wouldn’t be any confusion in the first place. This idea simply didn’t enter their heads. There’s again this weird disconnect between what is being said and what people clearly would need to know. There’s a month to go before PlayStation VR comes out – just a month. PS4 Pro is out in two. Yet it feels to me at least that it has more attention at the moment, and more consideration. That PSVR has been pushed a bit to the side just at the moment it needs, really, REALLY needs the full attention of Sony’s promotional machine and its rightly celebrated marketing savvy.

Instead what we know is that the PlayStation 4 is your friend. The PlayStation 4 Pro is your friend – with benefits. Which is oddly appropriate, because there are people interested in PSVR out there who are still going to think they’re gonna get screwed by it.