If there's one thing we learned from E3 2016 it's that the gaming industry seems optimistic about virtual reality. VR demos were on display on the show floor and several companies confirmed plans for VR versions of their games. Of course, it still remains to be seen whether gamers will embrace VR as readily as the industry has.
Sony seems confident that user demand is there, however. In fact, the company has now warned that the upcoming PlayStation VR may experience shortages at launch because production can't keep up with consumer demand.
Speaking with CNBC, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Andrew House warned that PlayStation VR stock may not be able to keep up with demand at launch. He explained that the company would do its best to keep up with demand, but that it's hard to predict how much demand there is for the console:
"We have growing confidence that we'll be supply constrained with this product, but we'll do our very best to meet demand. Virtual reality is a medium that's in its infancy. With such a nascent, very new form of storytelling, it's difficult to predict what user uptake is going to be."
That's the big issue with the push for VR. While it's engaging, there's no way of really knowing how many gamers to which it will appeal enough for them to put down hundreds of dollars for the equipment needed to play the games. As House explains:
"We're obviously very excited about the overall future potential for virtual reality and we think it's the right opportunity to start to build a market. But we need to keep reminding ourselves that you're requiring a very different user engagement than we have seen previously. … The experiences we are delivering are truly transformative for gaming and that will inspire a certain audience. How large that audience is remains to be seen."
PlayStation VR will retail for $399 (plus the cost of a PS4 camera, though bundles are available), and compatible games will typically range in price between $20 and $40, though some games may have higher or lower price points. While this is a lower price point than PC-based VR options such as Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, it still represents a significant investment in a trend that may or may not fully take off. Most likely, Sony is keeping production on the relatively low side to keep from over-investing in VR and will attempt to ramp up production if the device takes off.
Those who preordered PlayStation VR should get their devices in October when it releases, but finding one in stores may be difficult. Of course, if consumer interest is low then there may be more stock available than expected. This holiday season should be a good gauge as to how ready the public is for home VR experiences, and if the interest is there then we may see the gaming industry move further toward VR in the years to come.
PlayStation VR is set to release on October 13th, 2016.