VR is a cool tech, but it isn’t the future of gaming, yet
VR biggest problem – the tech is cool, the experiences are neat, but where is the value here?
It seems that this year at GDC, the big discussion is which VR headset is going to be the right one for you.
As of right now, PlayStation’s console VR headset is the most affordable entry-point at $399, while SteamVR/HTC Vive will run you $799 and the Oculus Rift will set you back $699. The last 2 will require some significant PC upgrades as well, likely launching you into the post-$1000 range.
I want to point this out because VR is about to hit a 1st generational release. You have sites like UploadVR that are for the enthusiast, providing content and excitement for the new era of tech heading our way, heralding it as the new age of entertainment with such veracity that you’d think playing games on a TV or monitor is dead.
If VR is the future, the future still isn’t here yet
Games make or break a platform, if you look at the launch lineup of any of the big 3 platforms, something becomes obvious. As of right now, Virtual reality is simply a gadget, much like a smartwatch or a set of Beats headphones. I say this, because looking at the headsets’ launch lineups shows a series of $9.99 app-styled games with a smattering of a few larger more established titles that have been more places than a working gal on Nebraska Avenue (it’s a Tampa thing).
Honestly, I’ve put research into this. Chronos is likely the only VR game that I’ve seen that really looks interesting and I’m not even sure what makes that game VR.
Surprisingly enough, there really isn’t even a real first person shooter yet. How the boat was missed on that one, I really don’t know. There are also a large amount of ports from Google Cardboard and GearVR apps as well. Once again, these games aren’t necessarily bad, but as a purchase for $9.99 on the Google Play Store for my $99 Gear VR, I’d expect bigger things out of a $799 headset.
Therein lies the VR wave of excitement’s most viable argument. The tech is cool, the experiences are neat, but where is the value here? These new VR headsets are essentially consoles and are meant to change the way that you play video games.
This is exciting, no doubt. But where are the real games? Not developed. What studio is going to put AAA money into developing the killer app for the $1000 of hardware you bought when the market penetration rate is still going to be so low? Recouping development costs would be a miracle at this point.
VR from any provider doesn’t cover full field of vision right now. The normal human eye’s FOV is 120°, that’s from your vision’s full periphery. VR headsets are generally at 100° or less, however some tech is rumored at 110°. I await the day when I can throw a VR headset on and replace my full field of vision with gameplay, but for now you’ll continue to have a theater effect (where the screen itself is obviously in front of your face). On top of this, the hardware hasn’t overcome the screen door effect completely either. This has forced most games to look dark and gloomy since the brighter colors will begin to display the telltale effect that makes the pixels appear to create a screen door. It just hasn’t been perfected yet and at $399+, I really do expect a full return on my investment. Perfection.
Virtual reality gaming as a whole right now is like chasing a high. These games are just experiences. A taste of what the future holds. Before you can really immerse yourself in these experiences though, they are over and you will find yourself spending $9.99 to try to find the next great experience. After a few months, you may end up a few hundred dollars poorer with a VR headset that really doesn’t have anything to play on it anymore.
But hey, you got in on the ground floor, right?
Will VR transform how play games?
I do think that VR gaming is tech that will advance how we play games. I really and truly do.
I enjoy playing around with the existing tech I have at home currently, but don’t let anyone try to convince you that you’ll be left out of the gaming bubble if you don’t adopt VR early. Give it some time, let the tech improve a bit and cheapen up with competition, and most importantly, let the games come out. Then we can all play Call of Duty: Virtual Combat together and have a good time. Until then, please proceed with caution.