PlayStation VR delayed till fall?

Rumors are spreading that Sony's virtual reality headset is delayed.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
3 min read
Nate Ralph/CNET

News is spreading like wildfire that Sony has lost the virtual reality race. I don't know about that.

Today, you can easily find a dozen stories about how the CEO of GameStop blabbed that Sony's PlayStation VR headset won't ship until fall -- which would be a significant delay from its expected summer release. With the Oculus Rift slated to ship in March and the HTC Vive coming this April, a fall release could leave Sony behind the pack.

But all of those stories could easily be inaccurate.

Update, March 2016: Sony has officially announced that the PlayStation VR will ship in October. The rumors of a delay turned out to be accurate. Original article text follows:

When I reached both Sony and GameStop for comment, here's what their representatives said:

Sony: "GameStop was speculating and we have not released any further details on launch timing."

GameStop: "To clarify, Sony has not officially announced a release date for PlayStation VR."

GameStop, when we asked more specifically about whether the CEO misspoke: "Paul [Raines, GameStop CEO] did mean generally speaking, whenever PlayStation VR launches, we will be ready for it and supporting it heavily at launch and going into Holiday 2016."

I bet I know what you're thinking: Of course Sony and GameStop would say these things. It wouldn't be in the best interests of either party to admit that the PlayStation VR has been delayed.

Admitting a delay could steer early adopters towards the rival Oculus Rift and HTC Vive instead, which likely won't contribute as significantly to GameStop's bottom line. (GameStop is focused on console games, whereas the Rift and Vive rely on Windows PCs.) And GameStop probably wouldn't want to jeopardize its relationship with Sony, either.

But if you look at the actual video interview that Fox Business conducted with GameStop CEO Paul Raines, it's not nearly as incriminating as many publications suggest. Raines doesn't actually say the PlayStation VR won't ship till fall. "We will launch the Sony product this fall" are his actual words.

Up close with Sony's PlayStation VR headset (pictures)

See all photos

And those words, in the context of a conversation about GameStop's business prospects, could easily be viewed in a very different light. You see, GameStop, like many retailers, relies on the holiday shopping season for a huge chunk of its sales. Raines could easily have been explaining how he believes VR products could help cap off a successful 2016 for the company. The product might arrive at GameStop in summer, and get a big push in the fall.

There's also an important nuance that some reporters are missing: Sony could easily launch PlayStation VR before it arrives at GameStop. The budding virtual reality industry doesn't know how many people will actually buy these headsets and has been ramping up slowly as a result. It was hard to find the Samsung Gear VR at launch, and people who waited to pre-order the Oculus Rift wound up seeing that March ship date slip to April, May, June and now July.

We also just saw Oculus and Samsung sell those headsets directly to consumers, instead of just at retail outlets like Best Buy and Amazon. What if Sony plans to go that route as well?

Or, perhaps the PlayStation VR really is delayed and these companies are just trying to cover up the mistake. Neither statement explicitly says the headset is still on track.

When I asked Sony point blank if the PlayStation VR was still set for the first half of 2016, I didn't get an answer.

Disclosure: My wife works at Facebook, owner of Oculus VR, as a business-to-business video producer.