Sony betting big on next VR headset with increased production plan

An attendee wears a Sony Group Corp. PlayStation VR2 (PSVR2) headset to play the Biohazard Village video game in the Capcom Co. booth at the Tokyo Game Show 2022 in Chiba, Japan, on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. — Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Sony Group Corp. plans to make 2 million units of the PlayStation VR2 headset by March next year, people familiar with the matter said, setting an ambitious outlook that defies the global economic malaise.

Mass production of the virtual reality goggles began in September and hasn’t yet faced supply chain constraints, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The production figure could be adjusted depending on the device’s sales momentum once it’s released early next year.

VR goggles remain a largely unproven category several years into the wide availability of commercial offerings from the likes of HTC Corp. and Oculus, now a part of Meta Platforms Inc. Sony’s roadmap for the PSVR2 anticipates much greater popularity than the company’s preceding PlayStation VR goggles for the PlayStation 4 -- which took eight months to reach a million sales. Meta’s Quest 2, the most popular VR headset today, shipped 2.8 million units in its first quarter of availability, according to IDC figures.

Sony has yet to give an official price or release date for the PSVR2. Its current plan to start selling the headset in early 2023 will coincide with expected relief of the supply chain bottlenecks that have hampered availability of the PlayStation 5 console since its launch in late 2020, the people said. That would give the company sufficient inventory of both headsets and consoles for a big marketing push. Users will need a PS5 console to use the VR headset.

A spokesperson for Sony Interactive Entertainment declined to comment.

Game developers remain skeptical about the VR segment because of its relative lack of market penetration, especially on Sony’s home turf of Japan. Meta’s Quest 2 is estimated by IDC to have shipped 17 million units to date and is lauded as the high water mark for the sector, but pales in comparison to other products in the console, mobile and PC gaming arenas.

The economic slowdown and increased materials costs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have also hit the VR sector. Meta raised the Quest 2’s price in August in response to the rising cost of production.

"The increasing cost of living is making many consumers wary of spending on non-essential items,” said IDC vice president of data and analytics Francisco Jeronimo. "If the economic crisis deepens, Sony may need to cut production.”

Sony’s suppliers and partners are uncertain about how long the Japanese company will maintain its high-paced production schedule after launch.

Sony plans to boost the PSVR2’s launch with new titles designed for VR from its popular in-house franchises, such as Horizon, and has said there are more than 20 titles in development for the device from internal and third-party game developers. – Bloomberg

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