Ease of use, price, and one-stop shopping
Now that Oculus has revealed its consumer version of the Rift HMD, consumers can start planning how they might engage with VR, and they have a choice—a DIY rig with a PC and Rift, or a turn-key system with Sony.
Sony’s HMD will be about 30% less expensive than the Oculus HDM. And Sony buyers probably already have a PS4, and possibly PS4 accessory controllers. Most importantly, Sony also has content.
Oculus requires the user to have, or get a high-end PC rig, and when available the Touch controller, at a price not yet revealed.
So the fastest, most friction-free way to get into VR will be with Sony.
HTC has a great system, the Vive, but hasn’t declared a ship date, price, or app store, so it’s a dark horse for now.
Samsung’s Gear is another easy and inexpensive way to enjoy VR, and probably will be the largest volume and most used VR device, but for snacking, not serious long term game playing.
VR is a new concept for most consumers. In addition to the drawbacks of VR sickness, limited resolution, and latency, there is the simple problem of getting it to work. A turn-key, plug it in and go system such as Sony will provide will be the simplest gateway to VR for consumers. PS4 users already know how to use the system, how to get games, and what it feels like; adding a HMD, and accessory, will be easy.
Potential Oculus users have to find apps, load drivers from AMD or Nvidia, and if there are any problems decide which one of the three or four suppliers involved should be contacted for assistance.
Can Sony hold a leadership role? If you are asking in terms of shipment volumes, and only counting HMDs, then yes for a while. If compelling content can be produced for the PC and if the competition amongst the HMD suppliers can drive down the price, then price elastic models suggest the PC will eventually over take turn-key systems like Sony’s. However, that could take a year or two.
The game developers have always given preference on their new releases to the consoles, a fact that has irritated me for over a decade. With the new generation of x86-based consoles, and the commonality in tool sets, the difference in release date between consoles and PC has shrunk. But the games are clearly designed for a controller and console first, and then (sometimes poorly) remapped to a keyboard and mouse (look at the convoluted moves one has to make in ROTTR with a keyboard).
So I think Sony will be the winner, and hold that position for a while.