Over the past year and a half, we’ve seen a big push for virtual reality gaming and technology. With each new year, cooler and better technology hits the market. More and more games are providing VR support. VR is awesome, but is it the future of gaming? I don’t think so; at least, not yet.
Right now, VR is supported across multiple platforms. As far as mobile goes, the Samsung Gear is pretty popular right now. In the console market, Sony has released the PlayStation VR. The most popular (and the most expensive) VR devices are probably the Oculus Rift and the HTC VIVE.
The prices of these VR devices vary. The Samsung Gear will run you about $130. Even more expensive is the PlayStation VR, about $400. The Oculus Rift is nearly $550, and the HTC VIVE has the highest price tag, over $800. As you can probably tell, VR devices are pretty darn expensive. While mobile VR is a bit more affordable, it doesn’t provide quite the same immersive experience as its more expensive counterparts.
Don’t get me wrong, the Oculus Rift and the HTC VIVE are awesome devices. They provide a realistic, immersive gaming experience. However, the average person doesn’t have $500-$800 laying around just to buy a VR device. Even if you have the money for these VR devices, that’s not all. You need to make sure you have the proper hardware to run the games. VR isn’t easy to run on a regular gaming PC.
You can buy a gaming PC under $700 that can run just about every game in 1080p without any problems. However, VR is a different story; you’ll probably need to spend at least $800 or more if you want to run VR games with good graphics and frame rates. After Spending $500-$800 on a VR device, and $800+ on a PC, you’re already spending at least $1,300 before any games. Of course, if you bought the PlayStation VR, you wouldn’t need to worry about being able to run the games. This is probably the best bet for those on a budget.
So, let’s say money isn’t an issue for you. You’ve bought an Oculus Rift and you have an awesome gaming rig. You’re all set and ready to go. It’s time to play awesome new AAA titles in VR, right? Well, not quite.
As of right now, there aren’t too many AAA titles that support VR. There are a lot of games out right now, but most can be described as throw away games. They’re fun to play for 20-30 minutes, but then they get repetitive and boring. Fallout and DOOM are going to see a VR supported version soon but most of the AAA developers haven’t followed in their footsteps, probably for a few reasons.
The biggest reason I can see? The market simply isn’t there. As I touched on previously, VR gaming is expensive. Most people would rather play games as they always have and wait for the price of VR to go down. Secondly there are only two mainstream VR game developers. This leads to a big game only being developed for one device. Similarly to console exclusives, there are VR exclusives. This is pretty annoying, especially if the game you bought your VR device to play is on the other VR device. Until there are more big name developers producing AAA titles, VR probably won’t be mainstream.
Game developers won’t make AAA games for VR unless consumers are ready for them. Consumers won’t be ready for them until VR comes down in price. VR won’t come down in price until more are developed. More won’t be developed until there’s a bigger market for them. I’m sure how you can see the problem here.
Another problem with VR is motion sickness; let me explain.
You know how when you read a book or use your phone in the car, you get sick? That’s because your body feels motion but you don’t see it. It works the other way around too. When you have a VR headset on, your brain sees motion, but you’re not really moving. This can cause some people to become sick within 10-20 minutes of playing. I know I’d hate to feel sick after using something I spent $800 on. You can read more about the science of motion sickness here.
However, it’s not all bad. The future may be looking up for VR gaming. In 2015, there were about 7 million VR users worldwide. There are about 90 million users right now, and by the end of 2018, it’s estimated that there will be 170 million users worldwide. As more people become interested in VR gaming, developers will take it more seriously.
To answer the question at the beginning of the article: yes, I think VR is here to stay. Unfortunately at the moment, I don’t think VR is practical. Until it’s sold in a smaller form factor, with better games and a lower price tag, I don’t think it’ll be mainstream. If you have the money VR can be a great experience, though I think it best to wait until the prices drop and the technology improves.