Innovation

Sony's PlayStation VR: What business professionals need to know

Sony unveiled details about its PlayStation VR. Here's how it fits into the existing market, and what businesses should know.

Image: Erin Carson/TechRepublic

As the virtual reality (VR) market has slowly congealed in the past two years, three major players on the higher end of the spectrum emerged: the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and Sony's PlayStation VR (PSVR).

On March 15, Sony announced two important details about PSVR, being price and release window. The headset will cost $399 and be available in October 2016.

Despite the fact that the three have been grouped together so commonly, Forrester's J.P. Gownder said the PSVR will have a much different impact.

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"Both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive must be tethered to a high-end PC with a graphics card (NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or greater), and the vast majority of PCs don't fit the bill. But there are millions of PlayStation 4s out in the market already, creating a built-in audience for the $399 add-on device," he said. In the short term, more consumers may buy the PSVR because of that.

PSVR is the only console-based system, currently. As Gownder said, that could prove an advantage as PlayStation already has a sizable install base. Sony said in January 2016 that 5.7 million PlayStation 4s were sold during the holiday season alone, and the install base worldwide is somewhere around 36 million units.

The price point could also hold some appeal for businesses not wanting to spend as much on a VR rig as what the Vive ($799 plus PC) and the Rift ($599 plus PC) cost.

Though, Gartner's Brian Blau, research vice president, said that businesses are typically more willing to spend money in order to get the tool they need to do a job properly, so they still may be more likely to go in the direction of the Rift or the Vive.

Another reason businesses might make that pick, he said, is that PlayStation requires you to build software with a game engine.

"Unless your particular business has a need for game engine type technology, then I would think you would go with one of the more open solutions on a PC because you have a lot of freedom there in terms of programming and what you want to do with it," Blau said.

One way that Gownder said PlayStation could get into business use is eCommerce, as PlayStation makes its way into homes.

"The way we order online today abstracts away from shopping, involving typed words and hierarchical menus," Gownder said. He gave the example of Retale, an online coupon site that's working on a location-based, VR shopping experience. "Retailers could start to deploy such applications to Sony PlayStation VR users — being careful that their retail offerings are a good match for likely early adopters and computer gamers."

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Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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