Game stores across the UK have begun charging users to trial Sony's new PlayStation VR hardware, asking people to plop down up to £15 to don a sweaty floor model.
Interest in the PlayStation VR is high, thanks to its compatibility with the popular PlayStation 4 console and its considerably lower cost of entry compared with the - admittedly more capable - PC equivalents like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Game, it appears, is trying to capitalise on that by charging users to test out the hardware, asking for up to £15 simply to give the headset a go.
In an initiative seemingly handed down from Game's head office and available in selected stores nationwide, the offer goes like this: punters can slap down £5 to try the headset for 10 minutes, or £15 for 30 minutes. The fee is non-refundable, though the cost will be taken off the final bill should the buyer decide to pick up a PlayStation VR kit post-demo.
Game's thinking is clearly that virtual reality represents something different from the usual raft of in-store demos, and on the surface it may have a point: Imax charges for its VR Experience
, which is powered by Starbreeze's StarVR hardware. There's a difference, though, between using high-grade equipment for its own entertainment and using consumer-grade hardware in a shop as a demonstration prior to purchase. By comparison, Overclockers runs its own Vive-powered VR demonstration service
, which offers a 15-minute taste of the headset's room-scale functionality in a specially-built arena completely free of charge.
Response to the offer via social media has been predictably poor, with Game stood accused of profiteering and potentially even breaching Sony's terms and conditions by charging for product demos. Thus far, Game has not issued a formal statement on the initiative.
Game has issued a statement to press defending the decision to charge for PlayStation VR demos. 'Our pay-to-play PlayStation VR experience is a Game-led initiative. The cost to use the in-store PS4 pod is entirely refundable for customers that go on to buy either the headset or a PS4 console,
' the company confirmed. 'The payment allows us to ensure that we have dedicated staff manning the PlayStation VR pods who have been fully trained to adhere to best practice demo guidelines. The demos are intended to give our customers access to one of the most exciting new gaming technologies in 2016 and provide them with the opportunity to get a feel for VR before they commit to buy.