Why the PlayStation 5 hasn't shown off VR... yet

It'll work with VR, but the new hardware could be down the road.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read

The PS5 isn't talking about PSVR at the moment (the PSVR came out in 2016).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony's PlayStation 5 reveal was a nonstop showcase of games and a lot of loving looks at the upcoming console's design. We saw the controllers. We saw headphones. We saw the curved, disc and disc-free systems.

What we didn't see was VR.

The PlayStation VR, which debuted in 2016, was introduced as a system-transforming accessory for the PlayStation 4. And yet, the PS5 reveal didn't make any mention of VR whatsoever. The closest thing we saw was a PlayStation camera and a game, Astro's Playroom, that features a character that's been in several PSVR games... but in the trailer Sony showed off, it didn't look like a VR game at all.

That doesn't mean VR is dead for Sony. It just means that Sony's next-wave tech might be waiting in the wings. CNET reached out to Sony for comment, and we'll update when we hear back.

We already know the PS5 will play PSVR games

Sony has confirmed the PS5 does VR, so that's known. Much like the PlayStation 4 Pro gives PSVR games a graphic boost, it's likely that the PS5 will do the same, even with older titles. Will the frame rate be better? How much better could games look? We don't know.

Sony did show off a new PlayStation camera... 

A set-top camera accessory, much like the existing PlayStation camera, will allow the current PSVR to work. The PSVR doesn't have in-headset camera-based tracking, so it relies on that external camera to sync movement.

And, a 3D audio headset

Sony's wireless headset for the PS5 touts 3D audio, which sounds like a lot of fun for PS5 games. But it sounds like an even better idea for PS5 VR games, which could take full advantage of the spatial audio.

Sony's DualSense controller looks great, but it's not a replacement for the ancient PS Move

Sony's revamped controller for PS5, called DualSense, has improved haptics and an onboard microphone. It sounds like a perfect match for VR games. Still, it's not quite a replacement for Sony's PS Move controllers, the wand-like PSVR-compatible sticks that date all the way back to the PlayStation 3. It would make sense for Sony to adapt some of the DualSense ideas into a new set of dual controllers with analog sticks and buttons, and maybe finger tracking too.


The PS5 and its accessories. Note the camera and headset.


Sony has already said a new PSVR HMD will likely come down the road

Last year, PlayStation's head of R&D, Dominic Mallinson, told CNET that launching a new PSVR headset alongside a PS5 wouldn't make much sense because gamers would be inundated with too many expensive shopping choices. Getting a (likely) expensive PS5 and games is already a commitment. But if a new PSVR headset is $400 (the price of the original PSVR when it debuted in 2016), that could push the total hardware cost up to $1,000, assuming the PS5 is $500.


A cave, lit dynamically with Unreal Engine 5's Lumen, looks photorealistic.

Epic Games

Unreal Engine 5, which will also boost VR gaming, won't arrive until 2021

Epic's Tim Sweeney agreed that the impressive real-time lighting and modeling advances in Unreal's next game engine will apply to VR, too, and considering Epic chose to showcase UE5 on a PS5, connecting the dots between them doesn't seem far-fetched. A new VR headset could lean into a higher-resolution display and enabling a better frame rate that the PS5 could deliver on.

It took three years for VR to arrive on the PS4. Will a PSVR update come sooner?

What we really don't know is how many years Sony will choose to wait before revamping PSVR. The PS4 debuted in 2013, and the PSVR followed in 2016. Maybe PSVR 2 will wait on hardware advancements, like wireless connections, to become more affordable, while leaning on the older PSVR hardware in the meantime. Sony could also be exploring mixed reality tech, allowing for passthrough augmented reality as well as VR (Sony's dabbled in AR games before). Could we see news in 2021, or would it be 2022 -- or later? At this point, I have no idea.