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Oculus Rift vs Project Morpheus: There's No Contest

Jonathan Lester
Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus

Oculus Rift vs Project Morpheus: There's No Contest

The battle for Virtual Reality has begun. In one corner we find the Oculus Rift, the original crowd-funded trendsetter with a legion of coders, John Carmack and a social media juggernaut behind it, whereas in the other we find Project Morpheus. Sony's newly-revealed peripheral has been years in the offing and comes to the table as a viable consumer product, designed specifically for the end user from the get-go. Though Valve and Samsung are waiting in the wings at this very early stage, warning shots are already being fired by press, pundits and gamers on both side of the debate. Which is sharper? Which is more immersive? Which is... better?

So it's time we got involved. Now that we've tested both the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus prototypes first-hand, we can finally compare the two devices against each other. Put simply, there's no contest.

Or to put it another way: the two visors aren't actually competing with one another, and they probably never will.

Oculus Rift vs Project Morpheus: There's No Contest

This might seem bizarre, but Oculus Rift and Morpheus are actually markedly different in terms of who and where they're currently targeting. Oculus Rift is designed primarily around the PC ecosystem, high-end hobbyists and developers keen to chance their arm. The sort of dedicated PC gamer who can afford to maintain a beefy rig (and who already has one set up, more to the point), alongside coders raring to develop for the exciting new hardware. Even if the worst case scenario of the VR push failing, if new steward Facebook doesn't manage to push the Rift into smart TVs and set-top boxes, I'm convinced that it will remain a vibrant indie, PC, homebrew and hardware hack scene with applications from gaming to architecture, remote manipulation and design.

Conversely, Project Morpheus seems to be designed and even revealed as a peripheral, an extension of the PlayStation brand. A radical new way of experiencing PlayStation games and media in our living rooms, capable of supporting a new wave of AAA exclusives and indie titles, prompting gamers to buy a PS4 or upgrade the console they already own. Sony seems to view it as a peripheral and a new platform, powered by a console with locked-in specifications (hence easy to optimise for in terms of hitting all-important resolution and latency targets, though lacking power compared to a flame-gouting liquid-cooled monster PC) and that boasts a dedicated existing audience.

Oculus Rift vs Project Morpheus: There's No Contest

In effect, Oculus Rift currently owns the upstairs of the house, replacing PC monitors, providing immersive access to a whole suite of modified PC titles and in-progress projects. Meanwhile Sony will be keen to convince people who already own a PS4 to buy into a new way to play, or more accurately experience, their favourite hobby in the living room.

Yes, yes, I hear you. "But I've plugged my PC into my living room telly via HDMI!" Good for you, and I do the same, but the fact is that the vast majority of gamers don't. Compared to an ergonomic chair and desk, balancing your gaming keyboard on your lap while lounging on the sofa isn't exactly ideal, and living room PC gaming still has a handful of convenience wrinkles to iron out to appeal to a wider mainstream audience used to consoles and smart devices. Right now, and for the near future, the two devices aren't even on the same playing field.

Oculus Rift vs Project Morpheus: There's No Contest

This could change, of course. Ubiquitous game streaming could bring both devices head-to-head depending on the latency involved, especially if Valve's Steam Machines initiative really takes off (I remain excited yet unconvinced), though more importantly Facebook could convince TV and set-top box manufacturers to support the Rift as standard. When this happens, we'll judge both retail headsets based on both their specifications and quality of their image, balancing how comfortable and practical they are for us users. Oculus Rift certainly seems to have the upper hand when it comes to the former, whereas Sony's experience at hardware manufacturing is likely to lock down the latter.

But for now, it's better that we look at the two devices as allies in bringing VR to the masses. They need each other. We're on the cusp here, folks, and having at least two strong well-supported devices will be key to ensuring that Virtual Reality becomes a reality. When publishers and developers know that their games have two potential markets, making ports possible and investment more likely, when two major companies do their best to really educate the public about what VR has to offer and keep each other honest, we'll start to see some cool tech become real products on store shelves.

And, of course, let's remember that neither headset is anywhere near finished yet.

Add a comment14 comments
t4v  Jul. 11, 2014 at 15:11

Lets talk cash. I've heard £200 talked about for both before now, I don't believe that but if so I could end up with both.

roberh  Jul. 11, 2014 at 17:44

Lets talk cash. I've heard £200 talked about for both before now, I don't believe that but if so I could end up with both.

There hasn't been any info on Morpheus' price, but the Rift will be sold at cost, and that may be lower than the $350 that the DK2 costs.

stevecase  Jul. 11, 2014 at 17:54

Balancing a keyboard and mouse on your lap? Do you not have a coffee table or even a TV tray? My desk is right next to my TV too so I can use my chair as well. The rest of what you say applies but you're also making up issues that don't exist.

RonsonPL  Jul. 11, 2014 at 18:49

What a poorly written article :(

A layman knowing nothing about VR will read this and... get misinformed :(
This is seriously biased towards Sony's Morpheus.

I'll respond, writing an unnecessary long text, sorry for that and for any mistakes (not my native language) but please read the whole thing. I might seem to biased towards Oculus, but when you'll get to the end, you'll see that's not the case. I'm biased towards great VR gaming, if at all ;)

1. Quality. Think about Rift=PS4/Xone, and Morpheus=Wii. Sony is going for casual VR. The difference will be huge. Lack of low persistence, lack of power (only half the detail in graphics compared to PS3 games at 30fps, since on PS4, in VR you can only expect quality comparable to PS3 titles running in steady 60fps.

2. Living room=Sony, upstairs=Oculus? That's totally misleading. It'll make a layman think that Rift will be a niche thing. It won't. It might even create a big "boom" for PC gaming. You cannot know that yet, and example is unfair.

3. "a flame-gouting liquid-cooled monster PC" = that's suggesting (wrongly and unfairly) that you need that. That's not true at all. You can build a PC significantly faster than PS4 in VR, for 800$ even now. You'll be able to buy a PC with i5 and GTX760 really cheap, when consumer version of the Rift hits the market. And that will be much better "base" for VR games than PS4, and there is much money to be saved in game prices (lower than console versions). You can buy air cooling that will allow you to have a high-end PC. You don't even have to spend that much on that (I might use my Noctua CPU cooler for 10 years!).

4. Streaming = that's a total BS, sorry, no other way to put this. Streaming won't be suitable for VR for DECADES from now, if ever. You need latency below 20ms from motion to last photon of the last pixel. That is simply not possible in streaming. Streamed VR might be good for virtual tourism, but we're talking games here.

5. Oculus=indie & homebrew? Again - total BS! It might be greater than PSX, it might create a revolution, and the only reason for the difference now is that there are a few millions of PS4s on the market, and there is no Oculus product ready. But this is now. Things will quickly change. That's why Oculus will offer MUCH better VR experience, that's why they'll sell the Rift at manufacturing cost. People will run to the PC shops IF they know that buying a good PC will offer them something great. Now it doesn't. PCs are marginalized, but VR might, and in my opinion, it certainly will, change that. And quickly, too.
Developers think the Rift will be awesome. Almost all of them WANT to work on games for it. So no, the argument about AAA games won't hold. Especially if Morpheus turns out to be a casual toy, unable to offer really AAA VR games. Then - it might (and again, IMO it will) turn around. It will be the Rift that has AAA and PS4 not so much. The race is not even started yet, and it will be a long one. Until the end of PS4 cycle as the most powerful mass-market gaming console, we might see 3-7 years of competition between the Rift and the Morpheus. I think after first 2 years, it will be clear for everybody, that Oculus is a leader. You won't see much exclusive AAA VR titles on PS4 then.

6. Morpheus more practical and comfortable? Another BS. Not after Facebook buyout. They already said that consumer version of the Rift WILL be so light that it seems weightless . They are also working on many accessories, including controllers, so ease of use and possibilities that Move controllers give Morpheus, won't stay as an advantage for long. Oculus won't limit it's VR offerings to one platform. Android is on the way, VR with (very) simple graphics might be possible on smartphones and smart TVs (in the near future). Maybe even iOS, who knows? But PC+android is much more open platform than "only for PS4 and not for anything else until 2020 or 2025".

7. "powered by a console with locked-in specifications (hence easy to optimize for in terms of hitting all-important resolution and latency targets"
Another part resulting from serious lack of knowledge. :(
Sony's VR won't go below 30ms. And that's a fact. You simply cannot go lower with the PSeye and struggling (power wise) PS4 at 60Hz. No optimizations will help it. The magic "barrier" after which some switch in your brain ticks, and you say "hey! I feel like I'm IN THERE!" is around 20ms. That's a fact. You cannot compare the immersion and "presence" when comparing 15ms (I hope this will be in the first Rift, but if not, then surely in CV2 released a year or few years later, whereas PS4 will always stay where it began) to 30-35ms. I hope for a miracle and 25ms latency in Morpheus, but it might very well end up above 30. That will severely limit the possible game genres and gameplay mechanics you can include in a game.

But most importantly:
Oculus will drive the whole VR. It's Oculus who started the VR revolution, and it's the Rift, supported by ever improving computational power.
In 2016 PCs will gain the access to all the goods of stacked memory (HBM memory). Graphical possibilities might jump to 300-400% of what we have today.
PC is more open for innovative accessories.
It's the PC that will allow VR to be low latency, blur-free, nausea-free fast paced games. The new innovative solutions to control and body/motion tracking will happen here, since PS4 simply doesn't have enough power.
What we'll see in VR games in 2025 might be mostly thanks to the Oculus during the years. Oculus wil push the advancement. It's the company where most talented people want to work right now. Ever heard of Abrash, Carmack and Rubin? There will be more of them, since it's obvious that this is the place where you can work, making the history, and gaining tons of enjoyment from your work. Passionates are on Oculus side. Sony's money won't change their minds.
And if Facebook ruins all that? I hope, everybody will quickly jump the boat and create another company. You can see looking at Oculus kicktarter and what happened afterwards, how GREAT enthusiasm this type of working received. That's why so many great people are joining. That's why there will be tons of great games for the Rift, and that's why I think the Rift will be the next PSX (Playstation 1).

And that's why I'm deeply saddened seeing such articles as above. You're hurting the VR, as a whole. Please don't. We'll all loose if Rift won't meet with great reception it deserves.

JonLester  Jul. 11, 2014 at 19:00

@stevecase: sure, granted, there are definitely some easy low tech workarounds and you can ensure that your living room is laid out in a convenient way for PC gaming. But in terms of relative convenience, it's yet another hurdle for trying to convince a wider mainstream (even casual) audience to get involved. Getting people to wear a plastic visor is already a big ask in and of itself.

It really isn't the main thrust of this article, though, and I suspect that most VR titles will look to controllers or dedicated input devices such as flight sticks, steering wheels or option controllers anyway.

@RonsonPL: I think that you might have misunderstood the bulk of this article, though thanks for the in-depth feedback! I'm not at all suggesting that one device is better than the other, they're not even competing, and you seem to have misinterpreted several points (as the writer I have to accept some blame there). Both headsets are completely different, have totally different philosophies and will both contribute to VR as a industry. And they're not even anywhere near finished yet!

This piece was written in protest about the bickering between fans of both devices, not to exacerbate it.

Last edited by JonLester, Jul. 11, 2014 at 20:37
RonsonPL  Jul. 11, 2014 at 19:28


Sorry if I misinterpreted something. I just often see people saying that Oculus is not a big deal, VR won't matter and will die as 3D did, and so on.
Many people will make their opinion based on the first VR experience they see. Remembering this arcicle and trying out the Morpheus one day, they might think it's not that of a big deal and resign from researching the topic of VR more.
It was happening too often lately. Plasma TVs destroyed by lesser LCDs, SED/FED not making to the shelves, killing 3D with terrible quality TVs and content, or stagnation in graphics due to some stupid decisions resulting in ignoring PC and staying at 2005 for next 8 years.
Good quality offers sometimes so much, that it changes everything. And low quality, but more popular solutions often kill the whole thing. The stereoscopic 3D gaming is a great example. I was blown away by perfect 3D in 2002, and would never believe that in 2014 it won't be a dominating standard. Saw a 3D game while visiting my friend. I almost cried. It was nothing like 3D I'm used to. And what about now? 3D dies, because many will think that terrible 3D they saw, is the only 3D there is.
I am SO scared of repeating this with VR. Sorry, if I reacted a little too emotional.
(and thanx for adding my comment above during moderation. It speaks a lot of you. Respect and peace.)

Last edited by RonsonPL, Jul. 11, 2014 at 19:38
JonLester  Jul. 11, 2014 at 20:36

@RonsonPL: No worries, and thanks again for taking the time to comment! It's clear you're passionate about VR and we're right there with you. I actually used to be quite cynical about the idea in theory, but have been completely won over after trying out various Oculus and Morpheus projects - it really has the potential to be a revolution and fuel entirely new forms of interactive entertainment (not to mention applications outside of gaming too!).

Last edited by JonLester, Jul. 11, 2014 at 20:38
merri1x  Jul. 12, 2014 at 03:17

This piece was written in protest about the bickering between fans of both devices, not to exacerbate it.

Regardless, there's still a fair bit of posturing.

Codierst  Jul. 12, 2014 at 09:04

Paid by Sony much? You must be to recommend one inferior product against a far superior one.

JonLester  Jul. 12, 2014 at 09:58

@Codierst: ...what? At no point do I recommend EITHER device over the other. It literally doesn't happen.

SuckithardSony  Jul. 13, 2014 at 11:45

Morpheus will fail HARD! Poor $0N¥ paupers still clinging desperately to a dying company.

MattGardner  Jul. 13, 2014 at 23:11


X10  Jul. 15, 2014 at 12:25

I came for the article, but I commented for the "Woooosaaaahhh" reference - [email protected] & MattGardiner: Genius! I completely forgot about that.

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