VR– A Passing Fad or a Real Trend?
Ready Player One – every VR gaming enthusiast’s wet dream. The newest Spielberg’s sci-fi blockbuster, set in the near future, takes us through the Oasis, a fully immersive virtual reality world teeming with iconic gaming characters.
From the movie trailer itself, we can see the main character using cutting-edge VR gadgets: a pair of VR goggles/a VR headset, some kind of a specialized suit and a motion platform.
If you haven’t been following the progress of VR gaming for the past few years, you might not be aware that the VR tech depicted in the movie is even available in this day and age. Obviously, none of the gadgets come even close to the movie levels yet, but the basic functionality is available in most consumer VR products out there.
VR goggles and headsets, though a comparatively small market, are the staple of any VR gaming setup. We humans are primarily visual creatures, so it’s no wonder VR of today is predominantly sight-based. High-end VR headsets for the PC platform, namely HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, offer unparalleled gaming immersion and visual experience.
Recently, HTC released a new and heavily improved version of their VR headset, called Vive Pro. Still, both HTC and Oculus might get easily overshadowed soon if Pimax, with its seemingly outlandish claims of 200-degrees FOV and 8k resolution, actually delivers on all the promises.
Microsoft also partnered with select few leading manufacturers to launch its own line of so called “mixed reality” headsets. Acer, HP, Dell, Samsung, Lenovo and Asus all came out with their own versions of Windows MR-licensed headsets.
Sony’s PSVR, a VR headset for their PlayStation 4, is synonymous with console VR gaming. By the end of 2017, it surpassed a whopping 2 million sales. While limited in scope compared to its PC counterparts, PSVR is a well designed VR headset perfectly suited for even the most demanding console gamers out there.
Last, but not least, let’s not forget about mobile VR headsets such as Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Go and Google Cardboard. These fill-up the entry-level market for people who don’t want to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on PC-based virtual reality tech. While offering only the most rudimentary VR functionality, they still provide ample fun for a casual gamer looking to kill some time.
For more ambitious gamers, there are early prototypes of VR treadmills, motion platforms, brain interfaces and exo-suits utilizing haptic technology. While fun, most of these are still in their early stages. In all likelihood, it will take a few years for them to become fully viable and break into the mainstream VR, if ever.
Any VR Games Out There to Blow Your Mind?
Basically, in terms of VR gaming technology, it’s safe to say there’s no shortage of options out there. Where VR still comes a tad bit short are the actual games. If you take a few minutes and browse through Steam’s selection of VR games, then through Oculus Store, and finally skim over PlayStation Store, you will notice a clear lack of noteworthy titles.
Yes, there are amazing and fun games out there. GORN, Echo Arena and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard instantly pop to mind. Even then, prepare to get used to motion sickness (yes, it’s a thing with these headsets), glitchy, often jittery controls, bugs, the so called “screen-door effect” and so on.
One of the biggest reasons for the lack of AAA VR titles is the market size. There simply aren’t that many people out there willing to spend a few grand on a VR headset, specialized controllers, sensors and, most of all, expensive, high-end PCs.
Most of the VR-exclusive games have been developed by small studios and independent developers. For mainstream titles, if they’re lucky, VR gamers have to use third-party solutions like vorpX. Most people aren’t willing to and often lack the necessary skills to fiddle with additional software, which presents itself as one more barrier of entry.
This, in turn, creates a vicious cycle. Due to insufficient market size, studios are not willing to commit resources for big VR projects. However, due to the lack of accessible, high-quality VR games out there, coupled with the high cost of entry, most gamers aren’t willing to even buy into the VR in the first place.
VR Gaming – Worth or Not?
There’s no clear answer here. It depends.
If gaming is something you do irregularly, on the side, then VR is most likely not for you. Not yet at least. One thing’s for sure – VR is a huge time and money sink. In its current iteration, it demands certain level of personal commitment. Most of the VR gaming fans will tell you that, over time, it slowly creeps up into your mind-space, like an obsession you can’t get rid of. I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling though.
On the other hand, if finances are not a concern for you, and you enjoy diving head-first into new, emerging digital trends, then by all means, go for it. VR gaming is not the smoothest of rides, but it’s also unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. It will certainly get you a few steps closer to the “real” thing.