In 2014 Sony announced Project Morpheus a virtual reality headset in the same vain as Oculus Rift. Throughout the last year Sony has remained coy about whether or not Morpheus would even go beyond an experimental stage.
At GDC 2015, we got our answer. Sony is going balls deep on Project Morpheus. Impressive updated specs on the well-designed headset and the startling revelation that the Playstation 4 console can do 120 frames per second the headset needs.
While everyone has been waiting for Oculus to release a consumer version of their Rift VR headset, Sony have been toiling away at what could be the only viable consumer headset when it debuts in 2016 (at least until HoloLens comes out and if that even supports the Xbox One).
Whether you’re a gaming buff part of the PC master race or you are an Xbox One fanboy, there is no disputing the facts. Sony are in an incredible position to jump out ahead of the competition in the VR race.
And here is why:
The Playstation 4 will work with Morpheus without additional hardware
With exception of the headset itself, of course. Morpheus is actually built with the PS4 in mind, with Sony revealing the Playstation 4 can achieve the required 120fps (aka the VR sweet spot) without the need for any additional GPU hardware to beef up the graphical abilities of the PS4.
Why is this a big deal? All other headsets like the HTC/Valve Vive headset and Project Morpheus require exceptionally expensive hardware to perform well. You’ll most likely need to spend close to $1000 on the needed hardware to run the Vive or Oculus headset.
When you take into account a PS4 and Morpheus headset will most likely be less than $1000 in total, that really puts it into perspective. You spend a few hundred buying Oculus or Vive, then potentially a thousand dollars beefing your machine up.
The Playstation 4 has the added benefit of being one system. The hardware never changes on a PS4 which means developers know of the theoretical limits beforehand, they know what they can do. PC’s on the other hand are varied with some being more powerful than others (depending on how much money you are willing to spend).
Even if the Project Morpheus headset (including trackers/controllers) costs $400, it is still considerably cheaper than needing a $1500 gaming machine to use the headset. It is one less barrier to entry for Sony that Oculus and others will struggle with.
Sony have brand power and developers
It is no secret that Sony has access to the top AAA game studios, but they also are well-respected within the indie game community. This kind of respect coupled with the fact the PS4 is the top selling console means people will be clamouring to make games for Morpheus.
While AAA titles might be scarce in the beginning, there will no doubt be a great selection of indie games to tide us over at and shortly after launch. There is probably a VR arms race going on right now as we speak, guarded by NDA’s and the like.
Don’t be surprised if developers are already making games and possibly have access to prototype Morpheus headsets to build with.
Morpheus is “technically” ready
The headset is actually ready. Not much will probably change between now and the estimated early 2016 launch date. I would not be surprised if the design we are seeing now (which is quite nice to look at) only goes through minimal design tweaks, but largely looks the same.
Think about it. Sony already has those currently pretty useless glow-stick looking move controllers and Playstation Camera for the PS4, but when Morpheus hits the scene they’ll take on a whole new meaning.
The position Sony find themselves currently in could not be better for them. They already have the control system down-pat leveraging existing tech currently available on shelves (which is extremely cheap). Morpheus could find itself being the only true consumer focused headset until Microsoft inevitably get in the game.
The only missing piece Sony needs to fill is content.
It will be interesting to see if the Sony will leverage its already massive trove of pre-existing and upcoming content like blockbuster movies for Morpheus. You have to remember Sony does more than just produce games and consoles, they’re a conglomerate from content to hardware.
While most applications currently centre around relying on the Playstation 4, Sony has the potential to make the headset first and foremost consumer focused for the PS4. At the same time, Sony could offer a downloadable SDK to PC users to allow the headset to work on a PC.
Either way whether Sony allow it or not, the Morpheus headset will eventually be swarmed by hobbyist hackers determined to make it work on the PC. You can already use a Playstation 4 controller on a PC, why not a VR headset too? After all, the PS4 is just a laptop computer internally with mid-range graphics capabilities.
Sony has the market reach, an existing customer base of PS4 owners, a headset that doesn’t require additional hardware and the ability to get great content for the Morpheus VR headset.
Unless anything dramatically changes throughout 2015, it is safe to say Sony will probably be the first actual test of whether or not consumer focused VR is something people want. And if it is, Sony is poised to take the console VR gaming mantle.