One key feature that has been in missing in PSVR is a social viewing app that would enable users to view their favorite content with other PSVR-owning VR friends. They have been waiting for something close to the Bigscreen Beta that is found in virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Go, Vive and Rift.
To respond to this need, Sony has finally created a social virtual reality viewing app for PlayStation VR users based in Japan. CNET Japan is reporting that Sony has pushed through a new update into the Theater Room VR that now enables users to connect with up to three other viewers inside a spacious virtual cinema. Sony has not yet announced when or whether this app will hit the stores outside Japan. It probably won’t.
For PSVR users in Japan, Theater Room VR will be a big deal. However, users on the social VR app have to purchase the content that they will be watching together and the purchase must be done individually. Also, unlike Netflix of HBO Go, Sony’s social VR service doesn’t seem to have streaming video service integration so users will have to organize with their friends so they can browse through the video rentals on the platform to search for favorite content to watch.
The app is already a big hit in Japan with a 4/5 star rating from more than 500 user ratings.
The main issue will be the pricing. The content has been priced at 600 to 800 yen which is roughly $5 to $7 per person. This is roughly what it costs to watch the Hollywood blockbusters in the actual theaters so the Theater Room VR users will be forking out quite a bit for a virtual experience. It may not appear justifiable given that the actual theaters definitely give a higher quality of viewing experience with ultra-high resolution imagery. No matter the model virtual reality headset, you cannot get that quality of resolution in VR. Oculus has already shut down its video viewing service since the numbers simply didn’t stack up to justify the maintenance costs; not enough people are renting videos in virtual reality to justify the cost of maintaining the service.
The other social viewing app Bigscreen had been rejected earlier on by PSVR platform, according to CEO Darshan Shankar. The rejection could have been prompted by multiple factors including an inability to guarantee a fully cross-platform experience. It may also be that Sony was simply interested in launching its own in-house virtual reality video viewing and rental service that would be specific to its platform and was not interested in allowing competition onto its platform.