What will be PlayStation VR's "killer app"?
I see that question a lot, on social networks and in our forums. With the Gear VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive all already shipping, what aside from a price point and a health selection of launch titles is going to launch PlayStation VR forward. Isn't this headset arriving late to the game? Won't it need some kind of killer app to pull attention away from the existing heavy hitters?
The truth is Sony isn't late to anything, and PlayStation VR won't need some kind of amazing thing no one else has in order to be considered special. The pricing, availability, and PSVR exclusives are going to make this headset stand out on its own. At the same time though, PlayStation VR does have a killer app that will set it apart from the crowd. It's called PlayStation Network, and it's going to be a significant part of comparing PSVR to the rest.
PlayStation Network is a combination social network and publishing platform for your PlayStation 4. Through it you can quickly communicate with friends, record and publish game clips to Facebook, and announce to whoever is listening when you're about to play a game. For PS4 owners, it's the preferred way to reach out to fellow gamers and enjoy some co-op or vs gameplay when you're tired of being matched with randoms. It has taken a long time for Sony to build their Xbox Live-esque platform for PS4 and have it work well, but it exists now and PlayStation VR will have immediate access to it.
After you've played a couple of games by yourself or with friends in your home, you want to play with other people who also have VR headsets.
Comparing PlayStation Network to the social systems in place in Steam and Oculus quickly reveals some serious shortfalls. Oculus allows you to maintain a friends list, but that's about it. Joining a game with a friend isn't really functional, and you can't tap existing social networks to add friends who are also Oculus users. Steam's social services are a little better, allowing you to spectate when a friend is playing and making screenshots a little easier to access and publish, but it's still clumsy and awkward when trying to use it for adding friends to multiplayer. Social has never really been a primary focus, because there are so many third-party tools for PC gamers to use as chat and communication apps.
This creates a unique position for Sony to show off something uniquely powerful about the PlayStation VR. The ease with which friends can see what you're doing in VR to use as justification for buying their own VR headset. The ability to quickly join a game with a friend when you both have VR headsets. The quality of the chat experience once that connection has been made. All of these things matter once you get over that initial blur of how amazing VR is. After you've played a couple of games by yourself or with friends in your home, you want to play with other people who also have VR headsets. Sony is going to crush this with PlayStation Network, and the competition is going to have to scramble to catch up.