Sony has provided more information about the release of its PS VR2 through its official blog. According to its latest blog post about this product, the new VR headset, which is the main part of a PS VR2 bundle or package, will hit the market on February 22, 2023. The retail price of the entire bundle is now set at US$549. The bundle comprises the PS VR headset, two Sense controllers, and a set of stereo headphones. While the price of the PS VR2 is higher than that of the PS5 (i.e., US$499 for the standard PS5 and US$399 for the Digital Edition of the console), it is worth noting that the previous generation of the PS VR headset—the PS VR—priced the same as the PS4 Pro (i.e., US$399). Also, if we include two previous-generation PS VR controllers (i.e., the Move controllers) that cost US$49 each, then consumers would pay a total of US$497. Hence, the price difference between the older PS VR bundle and the PS VR2 bundle is almost US$50; and this is actually a fairly reasonable reflection of the cost of the new hardware. After all, the PS VR2 and the Sense controller incorporate quite a few new features and components such as eye-tracking and haptic feedback.
Generally speaking, Sony’s plan is not about making the PS VR2 more expensive than the latest PS console, per se, but rather about following a pricing strategy that is specific to its VR devices. It should be pointed out that for the previous generation, Sony sold the headset separately from the supporting controller. There was no bundle back then. Now, the company only sells the PS VR2 in a package deal that includes the headset and two motion controllers. Because of this change in sales strategy, consumers feel a price hike. As for the possibility of Sony selling standalone PS VR2 headsets in the future, TrendForce believes such move will be unlikely mainly because Sony is focusing on gaming experience rather than instinctively trying to raise the market penetration rate of the PS VR2.
When the PS VR was launched, the gaming experience that it provided was affected by the low market penetration rate of the PS4 Pro. Learning from this lesson, Sony has removed forward compatibility from the hardware and software designs of the PS VR2. Therefore, the combination of the PS VR2 bundle and the PS5 console is now the only way to get the most ideal VR gaming experience from Sony. And with this approach, Sony hopes to raise the market penetration rate of the PS VR as a whole. Moreover, the gaming experience for users of the PS VR2 will be mainly immersive. So, in addition to the specially designed video and audio content, the PS VR2 will also feature a wider range of operations and a greater variety of feedback mechanisms. Additionally, the game content for the PS VR2 will be designed specifically for the Sense controller. All these details again reveal a strategy that insists on a total package for consumers.
PS VR2 Shipments Are Forecasted to Reach 1.6 Million Units for 2023
While pricing will definitely affect the sales volume of the PS VR2, it is also important to remember that the game console market targets a just few particular subsections of consumers. VR gaming is thus a narrow segment within this niche market, and VR gaming devices are never going to reach the same scale in sales when compared with the more typical consumer electronic devices. Furthermore, game console users as a group tend to be willing to spend more than do most other consumers. Hence, providing a proper gaming experience is a much more effective way to grow the VR gaming market as opposed to trying to keep hardware prices down.
And for the reasons described above, we can also anticipate that the cumulative sales volume of the PS VR2 will unlikely be comparable to that of Meta’s Quest 2, which has reached the level of tens of millions. However, the PS VR2 should have no problem reaching the 5~10% market penetration rate that is already attained by the PS5. TrendForce projects that the cumulative total sales volume of the PS5 console will surpass 30 million units by the end of 2022. Considering the impact of the weakening economy on consumer spending and the lack of VR games in the initial period of adoption, some gamers will put off purchasing the PS VR2 until they believe the time is right. Still, shipments of this device are forecasted to reach 1.6 million units for 2023. The key factor that could push sales of the PS VR2 even higher is whether its games have the content that complements its hardware and thus provide an exceptionally immersive experience.
Sony stated in an earnings call that PS5 shipments totaled only 11.5 million units in the last fiscal year (2Q21 to 1Q22), missing the target of 14.8 million units. Increasing PS5 game console production will be the company’s main task for now and sales are expected to rise to 18 million units this fiscal year. In addition, Sony also stated that it will strengthen live broadcast services and extend game services to other devices, as well as step up its VR business.
PS5 sales will continue to grow in 2022 but market instability remains
Although Sony had high expectations going into the launch of the PS5 and market reception was good, the PS5’s final sales volume was stifled by production hamstrung as a result of component shortages. Therefore, Sony specifically mentioned in the Business Segment Briefings, comparing US retailer events sold PS4 to the PS5, the PS4 sold an average of 6 units per minute, while the PS5 now sells approximately 1,000 units per minute, demonstrating the strong market demand for PS5.
At the beginning of the PS5 release, there were reports of an insufficient supply of components. When the PS5 was released at the end of 2020, it had been in production for several months and accumulated a certain amount of inventory. Even if production capacity was in short supply when the console was released, Sony could still meet some market demand in the first year with its inventory and then increase production capacity in 2021 to make up the difference. However, in 2021, semiconductor production capacity was also in short supply. Not only game console products, but numerous other products experienced a shortage of components. Naturally, Sony was unable to further increase the supply of PS5 consoles, resulting in PS5 sales coming in lower than originally expected. Sales even declined in 1Q22. As the imbalance between supply and demand of semiconductors gradually eases in 2022, Sony predicts that PS5 production will begin to increase to fulfill market demand and announced a sales target for this fiscal year of 18 million units.
Even so, there remain many uncertainties in 2022. First of all, although pandemic lockdowns in China have yet to directly affect the assembly and production of game consoles in Shandong, the risk of potential fallout still exists given the uncertainty of pandemic development. Secondly, demand from the overall consumer market may be exhausted in 2022. This is due to unfavorable factors such as inflation, wars, pandemics, and rising energy prices. Disposable income in 2022 is forecast to shrink as a result and force consumers to give up some non-essentials or delay purchases. So this may cause consumers to delay replacing their current console with a PS5. A combination of the original dearth of PS5 supply and the impact of the scalper market seriously depleted the stock of products on the market. Some consumers who were eager to enjoy new console games may have switched over to buying an Xbox Series X/S first which may contribute to PS5’s 2022 annual sales volume falling short of Sony’s estimate. TrendForce expects that volume will only reach 14.34 million units. Even if this forecast references the range of Sony’s fiscal year (2Q22 to 1Q23), estimated sales volume will only increase to 16 million units.