From the beginning, Sony has said that the PlayStation VR headset is $400. That was never the full story because you also need to own a PlayStation Camera to get that version of the device to work with games. And it turns out that this virtual reality system can’t do much at all without that extra peripheral.
Without the camera, the $400 PlayStation VR cannot boot up any of its virtual reality games. Instead, you get a warning message asking you to plug in the $60 PlayStation Camera. You can’t move past that error screen or back out of it. This device simply isn’t a real VR machine unless it is working with that visual-tracking device.
It isn’t a complete brick without the camera. You can still start up standard PlayStation 4 games and apps in the virtual theater mode. This puts a large screen in front of you in simulated space. This is a neat feature, and it’s similar to a lot of the movie-watching experiences already available on mobile head-mounted displays like the Samsung Gear VR.
Sony clearly wanted to market the PSVR as a $400 peripheral, but most people will want the $500 version that comes with the camera as well as the PlayStation Worlds game and two Move controllers. I would call that the real price — especially after experiencing how limited PSVR is without the camera.
Sony does just enough. The retail packaging for the core bundle does explicitly show consumers what they will already need for the headset to work. So the company isn’t actively deceiving anyone by claiming PSVR is $400. Sony has said that a lot of people already have cameras and Move controllers and it made the core for them. But marketing the incomplete package as the retail price is kinda like claiming a new BMW is $20,000 because someone might have their own engine they want to put into it.
Finally, while the camera isn’t really optional, the Move controllers are less necessary. Some games do require the $100 motion wands, but many early PSVR experiences work with either the Move or the DualShock 4 gamepad. Some don’t work with the Move at all.
If you have a preorder in for the core PSVR and don’t already own a camera or a Move, I would make an effort to pick up the former before worrying about the latter.