According to Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc’s chief executive, Andrew House, one of the fundamental things holding back VR is actually a lack of competition. In fact, that the company managed to move no fewer than 500,000 VR headsets in Q2 2017 – as compared to significantly lower numbers from either Oculus Rift or HTC Vive – makes Sony itself uncomfortable. House says that discomfort is mostly down to how competition fuels the gaming market itself. Competitors within the gaming market serve the dual purpose of making any new technologies more ubiquitous and driving innovation in the use of that technology. More competition is also beneficial in getting more software firms on board to work with the technology.
Sony’s worries do make some sense given that the only real competition is currently in the mobile and desktop gaming sectors. Mobile is advancing rapidly enough, with plenty of new advancements on the way from HTC, LG, and others. The PC-based VR market, in the meantime, appears mostly stable despite a drop in sales during the first quarter of the year. However, that is not really who Sony is competing with and neither of those two platforms has a tendency to drive sales in the console market. That leaves only Nintendo and Microsoft’s Xbox departments in the running to provide a boost to the industry. Microsoft, for its part, has predominantly avoided the topic of VR for the Xbox. Instead, the company’s focus has been on its Windows platforms for both virtual and augmented realities. At the same time, Nintendo seems to be holding firm on its position against creating a VR kit and software for the Nintendo Switch, postulating that the market for VR gaming on a console is simply not viable yet. Many have speculated that the gaming giant’s entry into VR would produce massive gains for the technology overall, but the company just isn’t prepared to make the leap yet.
Without any direct competition to cement the relevance of VR on consoles, the company runs the risk of customers eventually dismissing the technology either as pointless or as a gimmick. That could create a problem for Sony since it has already invested so much into its PlayStation VR experience and because the availability of that has played a role in selling PlayStation 4 consoles – which has, in turn, been a big part of what has made the company profitable after years of incurring debt in the consumer electronics market.