PlayStation VR2 appears ready to compete with the full VR market. That's bad news for Windows Mixed Reality.

HP Reverb
HP Reverb (Image credit: Windows Central)

CES 2022 has so far been a maelstrom of desktop and laptop PCs, monitors, processors, and graphics cards here at Windows Central. Sony's unveiling of the PlayStation VR2 specs, official name, and first game on Jan. 4 sort of passed me by, only hitting my feed the next morning. It was definitely the biggest VR news to come out of the exhibition, overshadowing Panasonic's lightweight, compact MeganeX headset compatible with SteamVR.

The original PSVR experience was a relatively inexpensive portal into a virtual world for those already with a PlayStation 4. No knock there, I enjoyed PSVR a lot. The PSVR2, on the other hand, looks ready to become a main competitor in the full VR space, competing with the likes of the HP Reverb G2, Valve Index, and the Oculus/Meta Quest 2.

This got me thinking about Microsoft and its Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) platform, which has been sitting (mostly) stagnant for the last couple of years. The PSVR2 has the right specs to be a big hit with all fans of VR, and the current strategy of "let it ride" for the WMR platform isn't really an intriguing alternative for those shopping around.

Updating PSVR for the next generation

The PSVR2 wasn't a secret — new controllers were unveiled March 2021 — but CES 2022 was the first time that Sony confirmed some concrete specs for the head-mounted display (HMD) and PSVR2 Sense controllers. Judging by the numbers, it's clear that Sony isn't taking a light approach to VR integration with its PlayStation 5 console.

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CategoryPSVR2HP Reverb G2Valve IndexQuest 2
DisplayOLEDDual 2.89-inch LCDDual LCDSingle LCD
Resolution2000x2040 per eye
4000x2040 combined
2160x2160 per eye
4320x2160 combined
1440x1600 per eye
2880x1600 combined
1832x1920 per eye
3664x1920 combined
SubpixelsTBDRGBRGBRGB
IPDAdjustableManualManualManual
Refresh rate90Hz, 120Hz90HzUp to 144HzUp to 120Hz
TrackingInternal
Four cameras
IR cameras for eye tracking
Internal
Four cameras
External
Lighthouse 2.0
Internal
Four cameras
ConnectionWired
USB-C
WiredWiredStandalone wireless
Wired (PC)

Official PSVR2 specs are rather impressive, and it seems like reception has so far been highly positive and optimistic. Not only is the head-mounted display (HMD) a marvel of high-res OLED screens with HDR, foveated rendering, and wide FOV, it will offer adjustable interpupillary distance (IPD), haptic feedback, and eye sensing. It's also going to come with next-gen PSVR2 Sense controllers also with haptic feedback, touch detection, and adaptive triggers.

VR fans are still waiting on a firm price to see whether they will invest, but that's a hardware combination that should move plenty of units. Considering most VR-ready PCs cost somewhere around $1,000 or more, the $500 cost of the PS5 is already out ahead of most PC-VR systems.

Where is Windows Mixed Reality headed?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

While the VR industry as a whole continues to slowly grow, the Windows Mixed Reality ecosystem is stagnant. When WMR launched, it was full of headset options ranging from budget to premium. Those days are long gone; if you want to get into WMR, you have very few options to choose from. That's not necessarily a bad thing — too much choice in such a small space can be a problem — but it does seem like WMR has been forgotten by most manufacturers that helped with the original 2017 launch.

HoloLens continues to make an impact on the industrial and commercial sectors, but it's really only HP that's holding the torch for consumer WMR. Its Reverb G2 is truly the champion of Windows Mixed Reality, and it's essentially the only WMR headset that the average VR user can buy these days.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

It offers a spectacular visual experience with the highest resolution in mainstream systems, a robust audio system with similar setup to the Valve Index, a comfortable fit with adjustable face gasket, and full compatibility with SteamVR. It's one of our picks for the overall best VR headsets, but it does have some major flaws when compared to some of the other VR systems on the market.

Most notable is the lack of quality motion controllers. The controllers that ship with the Reverb G2 are modified versions of the very first WMR controllers released in 2017. They're entirely unremarkable, with OK ergonomics, poor haptic feedback, and a lack of adaptive triggers and touch sensing. Don't get me wrong; they're a huge step up compared to the e-waste that shipped with the original WMR headsets. However, they just don't measure up to the likes of Oculus/Meta Touch, Valve Knuckles, and the forthcoming PSVR2 Sense controllers.

Note that Valve's Knuckles controllers can work with the Reverb G2. The setup adds significant cost and third-party software isn't foolproof, but it is worth it for some enthusiasts.

WMR does have the bonus of being versatile. It can only run on PC, but it has access to SteamVR (and Oculus using the Revive software workaround) and Microsoft Store titles. There's an enormous collection of VR games that you can play on WMR, and the PSVR2 will be starting over fresh with a huge hill to climb. PSVR2 will be beholden to the PS5, though the USB-C port for connecting back to the PS5 will likely leave it open to being used on PC. Even the original PSVR can be used with a PC with the right workaround.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The release of Windows 11 introduced a new, more streamlined home environment called "Infinite Expanse" that sucks up far fewer resources than the standard WMR Cliff House or Skyloft. But it also added a setting that boots SteamVR anytime you launch WMR, giving you the option of bypassing entirely the WMR home environments. This gives most VR users even less reason to touch WMR's content. Every WMR user I know heads straight to SteamVR, which is perfectly capable of delivering everything the average VR user wants.

PSVR2 has a lot going for it, and we've yet to even see the headset's design. I can't say I'm not intrigued. Its price will almost undoubtedly be less than what Valve is charging for its full Index system, there's no threat of an Oculus/Meta library lockout should you make a wrong step on Facebook, and you get high-end motion controllers included in the package. The OLED display with HDR support, eye tracking, and the new fully realized Sense controllers are a huge draw. As long as the library of games can keep up with the hardware, the PSVR2 is going to be a hit.

Growing the Microsoft metaverse

Source: Associated Press (2015) (Image credit: Source: Associated Press (2015))

Announced at CES 2022 was an expanded partnership between Microsoft and Qualcomm to develop custom chips for augmented reality (AR). This is expected to benefit both consumer and enterprise sectors, integrating software like Microsoft Mesh (which is coming to Teams this year) and the Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer platform.

The metaverse push might not ever live up to the hype, but it signifies that Microsoft is far from abandoning its mixed reality ambitions. It's just not the effort that most VR and WMR users are looking for.

Xbox still isn't getting VR anytime soon, and while HP seems dedicated to keeping it alive with frequent updates to its Reverb headset, I can easily foresee a future where the Reverb G3 ships without the Windows Mixed Reality branding and lives on SteamVR only. Would that be such a bad thing?

Cale Hunt
Senior Editor, Laptop Reviews

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

32 Comments
  • Cale, I take your points on everything in the article, but could you tell us what % of gamers play on VR? My sense is that it's a tiny, tiny number, under 1% (few million out of a few hundred million gamers). I realize that a great VR experience could change that quickly (as the iPhone catapulted smartphones into the mainstream from just a few of us techie enthusiasts), but this Sony solution looks like just another small incremental improvement -- better specs -- not something to address the fundamental barrier to VR gaming among mainstream gamers: just like the downfall of 3D TV's, we don't want to have to wear something to game, or have any barrier to enjoying a game with friends and family together in the family room. In other words, I don't even think the problem is one of cost: even if VR were only $50 with great graphical performance and resolution, I don't think it would find many takers (more than today, but still niche). The problem is the UX is fundamentally clumsy, inconvenient, and anti-social (at least among people in the room with you). I had been interested in VR and went to VR gaming exhibits back in the 1990s. Graphics and performance have come a long way, but the UX is effectively unchanged. At this point, I'm actually less interested in VR gaming than I was 10 or 20 years ago, because I've come to accept that its core problems are not readily solvable. I'm not suggesting that they need to build a Holodeck before it can have mass appeal, but current systems still seem many, many years away from appeal to a mass consumer market. Maybe the current goal is just to become dominant in the niche market of VR gaming fans. That's OK, that's probably a few million people around the world, so not a negligible market if those sell at several hundred dollars a pop, but not one that I would fault MS for choosing to ignore.
  • I second this.
  • I disagree. VR has come a long way in terms of comfort, visual fidelity and especially immersiveness, in relation to controls and ingame interactions. Thanks to WMR who brought inside-out tracking and other advances in tech, it's pretty simple to setup and get playing too. I've spent hours on a single session with my trusty WMR first gen headset and I just remember being there. It's an amazing experience. It still needs to mature but it's great right now.
  • fdruid, no question the tech and immersion have improved. I do think it's an engaging experience when you're using it. But those are the positives of VR and reason its fans like it. I don't believe those particularly relate to the negatives among the majority of gamers who don't care about VR. I think the parallel to 3D TV is very, very close: many people like 3D TV. I have what I think is the last curved 3D TV, an LG OLED UHD 3D TV, and a bunch of 3D movies. To watch in 3D, it's as simple as putting on a pair of dirt cheap, lightweight, passive 3D glasses (enough for a great, sharp, and bright 3D experience with a 4k, 120Hz TV, unlike the prior 1080p 3D TVs, where only active glasses could achieve that). Even that tiny obstacle is enough to prevent the masses from being interested. Manufacturers have concluded that the few million of us who would still like to buy 3D TV's aren't worth it. Even my wife won't watch 3D movies with me, because they give her a headache. If the majority of users actually dislike a technology, regardless of cost and availability, it is unlikely to become completely mainstream. That's OK. There's still plenty of room for a profitable niche solution that appeals to a few million gamers. However, at something in the 1% realm of the total gaming market, I think it's also understandable that MS may not be particularly interested in competing for a smaller portion of this space, or may only be interested in certain limited ways (e.g., providing OS-level support for third-party options).
  • What are you talking about? Back in November it was confirmed the Oculus Quest 2 had sold 10 million units. VR is definitely the future of gaming.
  • Joe, that would be a little under 5% of the number of console gamers across Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony (which is in turn a small number compared to those who play casual games on mobile devices and I'm not counting PC). Factor in the other VR headset makers and it's probably pushing 10% in total. That is an impressive figure, probably enough to take seriously, but still a niche sector. I have a hard time believing that fully though. Of the hundreds of gamers I know, through professional channels (so not just my buddies), I am certain that the % of them using VR is far below that. Further, of those I do know who own an Oculus or other VR gaming system, most of those who bought it rarely or never use it any longer. The reason they give? Too much of a hassle, and not worth the effort of gearing up. There are a die-hard few who swear by it and will seek out and pay extra for games that support VR. Obviously and to be fair, these are anecdotes and don't necessarily reflect the statistical data of the market as a whole, but evaluating gaming markets is something I used to do professionally, so I have a pretty good feel when my sources are in sync with the overall market or not. Having said all of that, I do believe the appeal will grow over time as the technology allows for removing and easing the cumbersome gear requirements. The closer it becomes to a Holodeck, the more appealing it will be and the more regular gamers will be willing to make the transition.
  • You make a FANTASTIC point, and even as a VR gamer, you're 100% right. The UX is the biggest obstacle and the biggest reason why Phil, in my opinion rightfully moved away from offering it on the xbox. There are times when I want to play VR, but sometimes I'm like "ugh..I don't feel like setting everything up" Just to a play for a session, and then put it up. It's annoying. Vs. ploping on the couch, queing up a game, and go. I will say that inside out tracking that was first created by WMR, helped move VR in a better direction, because I do need to set up trackers in a room, yes the tracking isn't as good, but for most games, it's good ENOUGH. As far your questions on what % of gamer? it's...small. If we are JUST talking about Sony. They are Well over 100 million in PS4 sales. They sold...4.2 Million PSVR headsets. Now maybe THIS one will sell better...but, given that the initial hype of VR has waned, I'm doubtful, although, with this new Metaverse hype (most of which is crap but whatever), maybe they'll be able to attract gamers, but it remains to be seen how the Metaverse would appeal specifically to gamers. On a side note, I honestly thing the 3D TV craze failed because it wasn't democratized and everybody had their own proprietary glasses, instead of just letting the market and anyone in it, create their own solution that worked with any 3D TV. Instead only Samsung glasses work with Samsung TVs, and Toshiba worked only with Toshiba. The VR market has the exact same issue, and WMR tried to address that by having a platform that could bridge all the others. But the other companies, namely Meta, won't play ball, and that hurts adoption
  • On the 3D TVs, the passive glasses generally work on all of the TVs that support passive glasses. On older 1080P TVs, those could lead to poor displays (because they block half the resolution) but for newer UHD 3D TVs, the passive glasses work great. Only real obstacles is the hassle of wearing glasses and the lack of real interest in 3D programming.
  • The only TVs with passive glasses, was panasonic. Sony, Samsung, and Toshiba, were using active glasses, non of which worked with each other
  • RagingTyga, that's incorrect. For example, I own the LG C6 OLED 65" curved 3D UHD/4K HDR TV (https://www.lg.com/us/tvs/lg-OLED65C6P-oled-4k-tv). I watch it almost every day (though only rarely in 3D). It uses passive 3D glasses. With the advent of 4K screens, there was no longer any effective benefit to active glasses and all went to passive. At that resolution, 1080p 3D works with no loss of image quality, due to the higher resolution of 4K.
  • This is why facebook is subsidizing its VR headsets, they want everyone to have their own and the socialization/user experience is the meta verse. I miss the days of shared consoles... its everyone hiding in their room sitting on their own PC socializing virtually...
  • You're right about player count: a very small amount compared to total gamers out there. It continues to grow slowly. And you're right about mass market appeal being hurt by the clumsy UX. It has gotten so much better even over the last few years. But I imagine even the matter of having enough space to move around without destroying a room is an issue for many people, myself included.
  • VR isn't necessarily Mixed Reality...like Hololens is.
  • I think they are smart to focus on mesh software instead of VR hardware. WMR doesn't really need to be a lead platform. It's already probably the most versatile but I see this as the same decision to focus on the cloud and every platform instead of trying to compete in the mobile os wars...
  • It is the most versatile, agreed. If I were to switch to another ecosystem (which shouldn't even be a thing) I'd miss running windows apps in VR. Every headset should be able to boot uo the Windows VR environment. It's windows, after all. A unifying, standardized software experience.
    It's what VR needs, a unifying platform.
  • WMR is all but dead. No updates for hardware for some time. Finicky and does not work well or easily with other stores and outdated inside out tech. So yeah you're right!
  • Sorry, I kinda skimmed the article as I didn't have time to fully read it, but are you saying that the PSVR2 will be usable in PC? Or am I misunderstood?
  • Nothing really known for sure yet. But PSVR2 uses a USB-C cable and PCs have USB-C ports. PSVR1 could be used on PC (with some extra software and elbow grease). Maybe PSVR2 will be the same?
  • I own a first gen WMR headset
    I expected MS to support it more than they do, but still, it was a great deal for its price ! And FYI I answered to the latest steam survey, scanning my hardware... it didn't detect any VR headset, while it was plugged in!
    So I'm starting to have some doubts about steam vr ownership stats
  • None of this matters until someone creates the right input method. They are all awkward, especially the interaction. The software all sucks too, because they don't have a great input method to build off of. They can be fun at times, but mostly frustrating. VR/AR needs an iPhone moment. Hopefully it isn't Apple bringing it again, but I don't see these other companies doing it first.
  • Hate to agree with bleached, but do here. :-) I especially agree on the hardware being awkward. I think the software is getting pretty good. That's not to say that fans may not like the hardware -- obviously the current design does appeal to a lot of people who buy these. But it's not like a game console, phone, or a TV, that just works intuitively and comfortably for the vast majority of users. Having to put on a pair of near weightless 3D glasses was enough to tank 3D TVs and VR gear is much, much more cumbersome. You could argue that the reward of VR is greater than just watching a movie in 3D, so maybe there's a higher tolerance for the hassle, but the basic simplicity and comfort problems and objections are the same.
  • There are certainly times when I think how great it would be to play some VR. Then I realize nothing is currently set up and my office is a mess and I go back to regular PC games.
  • Apple troll confirmation #34564...
  • I thought Bleached was an Android troll? Get your name calling correct! 😜
  • Did you read my comment? What about that was Apple trolling? I seocifically said I hope it is someone else. VR/AR doesn't have a good input method. Remember the first time you used an iPhone? It was immediately apparent they had it right. You don't get that feeling with current VR/AR products. Why do you ways attack people instead of talking about ideas?
  • Nothing is helping with WMR, it's not Sony guilt even if they are probably as bad for the VR industry as Facebook.
  • Mixed Reality will always be more interesting than VR, just not for gaming.
  • I've used WMR for design work. It was cool but far too cumbersome to use. My boss never used it. For instance, several times working with clients the controllers would pair behind the person making them useless.
    My son recently got a Google cardboard at school. I was really surprised how clear the picture was compared to the Dell Visor we had used. But even the cardboard was clunky and frustrating to use.
  • Someone just tweeted that MS lost over 100 engineers in their HoloLens headset division to Facebook... i'm guessing a lot of people see that HoloLens will never be VR and it shows that WMR just has nothing left inside Microsoft worth hedging on vs Meta/FB
  • That's a big hit to Microsoft...
  • It's got to be wireless and got to be like putting on glasses, not a helmet
  • I use my Acer VR rig to play Elite Dangerous, Star Wars Squadrons and MS Flight Simulator. I skip past the WMR "cliff house" and go straight into Steam. Nobody does the VR work area right anyway (a 'house' is completely stupid and just gets in my way). As for controllers, I use HOTAS and keyboard for all interactions with the games I mentioned, so the hand controllers are a glorified mouse to me. In the end, I don't care what it's called, all I want is a good VR experience to play the kinds of games I care about.