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PlayStation VR sales hint there may be an appetite for gaming’s next big thing

Contributed by
Aug 16, 2018

Sony has just released the latest sales numbers for its PlayStation VR headset, and they reveal a fresh momentum for the company’s push into virtual reality since the device made its debut in the fall of 2016. 

On the PlayStation blog, Sony said PlayStation VR has surpassed the 3 million sales mark, with a significant portion of purchases coming in the past year. 

Other VR gaming makers, like HTC (which makes the Vive headset) and Oculus (which makes the Rift and the recently debuted Oculus Go), don’t disclose their sales numbers, so it’s tough to generalize a larger industry trend from Sony’s report. But a couple of things may be going uniquely in Sony’s favor, and they’re takeaways that may be vital to the future success of virtual reality gaming in the wider market.

First of all, PlayStation VR’s list of best-selling games is topped by a supremely recognizable one: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which continues to enjoy a staying power across all platforms that’s unmatched by most other titles that, like Bethesda’s fantasy epic, have been on the market for close to seven years. PlayStation VR players also are plugging in for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (No. 4 on the list), as well as Batman: Arkham VR (which comes in at No. 8).

The presence of recognizable game titles that first established themselves outside the VR world suggests that gamers may be more receptive to a VR library that dangles the familiar close within their grasp. Skyrim VR released in November of 2017, right around the time that Sony’s VR sales began to pick up the pace. 

While correlation and causation aren’t the same thing, the accessibility of a monstrously successful game like Skyrim may be part of a bigger factor that’s driving sales: the accessibility of a headset that’s affordable. Sony dropped the price on PlayStation VR from $399 to $299 in March of this year, in one fell swoop dramatically undercutting both the Rift (at $499) and the Vive (at $399). 

Sony’s sales numbers aren’t the only recent indication that, under the right conditions, gamers may harbor a growing appetite for emerging ways to play. Nintendo’s Labo accessory, which essentially transforms the Switch console into a context-specific interface that merges 2-D gaming and toylike, real-world play, has moved close to 1.5 million units in the four short months it’s been on the market. 

At a base price of $70, and with a emphasis on gameplay innovation over tech, the cardboard-cutout Labo couldn’t be further removed from the bleeding-edge gaming evolution being pushed by the Rifts and PlayStation VRs of the world. But as sales numbers for devices that evolve the video gaming experience improve, alternate modes of play — at both ends of the technology spectrum — may finally be turning a corner toward entering the mainstream.