Although the release dates of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two are not entirely clear at the time of writing, many gamers are nevertheless looking forward to the two next generation consoles. Microsoft will be looking to narrow the gap that Sony has built up with the PlayStation 4 in the current generation, while Sony will naturally be looking to build on its successes.
One of the technologies that could most define the next video games generation is the rise of virtual reality. This is something that gamers are still in the dark about to a certain extent, as none of the major systems planned have launched as of yet. But with both Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR in the pipeline for 2016, it won’t be long until we have a good idea of the success or otherwise of virtual reality on console systems.
So how will virtual reality impact upon the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two? Here are six key areas for Sony and Microsoft to consider and deal with.
PlayStation 5 & Xbox Two – True next gen experience
The most important aspect of virtual reality is that the technology can help the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two deliver a true next generation gaming experience. It would not be entirely fair to say that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox Two have underwhelmed, but there is only so much that can be done with the existing technology. Games are now extremely slick products, and there is no doubt that we have seen some outstanding titles on the current machines. But the ability of Sony and Microsoft to wow consumers with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One games has been fairly limited.
Virtual reality has the potential to deliver a gaming experience that the majority of even committed gamers simply haven’t come across before. The jury is still very much out on the success or otherwise of this technology, but some major developers have already signed up to produce titles. Virtual reality can deliver an immersive experience that would otherwise be impossible, once again generating the sort of epoch changing excitement that recent titles have failed to deliver.
Attract casual gamers
Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two have two survive in a climate in which there has been a significant Balkanisation of the video games industry. Whereas consoles could be expected to dominate the video games landscaped at one time, today they must compete with numerous devices, with even the recent Apple TV box having a significant gaming emphasis.
Nintendo’s Wii console attracted hundreds of millions of casual gamers – although it must be said in mitigation that it failed to really retain them and encourage them to buy new products – by providing something innovative and different. Sony and Microsoft may hope that virtual reality on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two can do something similar; delivering an experience that intrigues gamers who are not committed to a particular platform. This will be dependent upon achieving a gaming quality that is unprecedented, so the early days of virtual reality systems on the current generation systems will be critical.
A weakness of conventional consoles is that they cannot be easily upgraded in comparison to PC desktops. And it has already been suggested that virtual reality will be an evolving platform, which may not entirely suit the provisions of consoles. This is one of several reasons that analysts have suggested the days of what we recognize as consoles may ultimately be numbered, but at the very least it could provoke Sony and Microsoft to consider producing PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two devices that are more flexible. It may be that they need to grow with virtual reality technology as the platform becomes more popular and significant.
Bigger PC / Console divide
In accordance with the previous point, it has been suggested that virtual reality is significantly more suited to PC platforms than consoles. There is already a huge rivalry between users of the systems, but this could elevate still further once virtual reality becomes part of the mainstream gaming landscape. Certainly there will be pressure on Sony and Microsoft to deliver a virtual reality experience that is the equal, or at least close to the equal, of the Oculus Rift system that is due to release on the PC this year.
Increase development costs
We do not yet know how successful virtual reality will become, but there is no doubt that many hardcore gamers are particularly looking forward to the planned VR systems. Once PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and other virtual reality systems become available, there seems little doubt that they will find a decent installed user base in the early months of the machines.
However, there is no guarantee that the systems will become successful and ultimately mainstream. But if they do become a central part of consoles, both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two will be obliged to embrace the technology enthusiastically.
This would mean that Sony and Microsoft would have to consider including VR technology in the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two from day one; a process that would potentially increase development costs for the consoles. This could have a knock-on effect on the ultimate price point of the two devices; it is clear that a virtual reality will have an economic impact on the gaming industry as well as a practical influence over the games themselves. There is a balancing act to be enacted here for both of the major console manufacturers.
Delay release date
Finally, if Sony and Microsoft intend to include virtual reality technology in both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two from the initial release date, it is possible that we will see this date ultimately pushed back. We do not yet know the technical requirements of the systems, and indeed what state visual reality will be in by the end of this decade when it is roughly expected that both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two will emerge.
But if VR is to be a major part of the next generation consoles, it could be that the earliest we will see them in the stores is 2019.