Virtual reality is something that most of us have been dreaming about since we picked up a controller and started playing for the first time. But when the time comes…will it work?
We have dreamed of the day where we can put a VR headset on and get lost in a vast world that feels real and authentic. This was always considered to be the future of gaming. Well folks, the future of gaming is upon us. It is almost time to put a virtual reality headset on and experience something new and innovative. At least that’s what we’re hoping for.
In my opinion, Virtual Reality can change the way we play forever. I still think that several years from now we will be holding a controller in front of a TV using button inputs to interact with games, but VR can provide us with a new way to play. VR can give us another way to interact with games. Motion controls gave us a sense of playability that we never experienced before and although this eventually became a gimmicky alternative to the tried and true way to play video games, I think it was important to the games industry. I think that VR is very different, and I don’t think we’ll be seeing this as a gimmick but rather an alternative way to play.
The Samsung Gear VR and the HTC Vive have been making splashes since they were first shown off, but I want to focus more on the two heavy hitters in the games industry. The Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR are both releasing this year and while they are very similar products, I feel that they’re being marketed to two different audiences. The Oculus Rift will allow PC gamers to do many things, and over time the Oculus Rift could end up being a very special piece of hardware that’s not just targeted toward games. The PlayStation VR on the other hand is more of a peripheral that will be marketed as an add-on to the PlayStation 4. Will the PlayStation VR be compatible with the PlayStation 5? Will Sony be releasing another one to keep up with its future hardware lineup? Sony has a lot of questions to answer. I can see the Oculus Rift being more successful in the long-term, but there’s no way to know for sure until we hear more about PlayStation VR. Both VR headsets are very ambitious and these are all-new products that will bring something new to the table for everyone involved.
There are several ways that VR can change gaming. We could be using VR instead of a TV. Using the headset as a screen could be a very innovative idea in its own. Say for example, the TV is tied up and you want to play games. Well pop on that headset and you’re all set. A virtual reality headset can allow for full immersion and create a sense of realism that cannot be replicated so this is great for those of us that do not like to be disturbed during long play sessions. There may be concerns for some players that like to play for long periods of time though. Reports of dizzy spells and nausea have been mentioned in preview builds of both products. This may be cause for concern when it comes to using the headsets as an alternative to your television.
VR can also provide a different gaming experience. Game developers are always looking for new design ideas with fresh hardware. Something like this will give great developers an opportunity to create a new way to play their games. For so long we have had very familiar gaming tropes. Checkpoints, cut-scenes, and role-playing elements have always created a sense of familiarity in the way we play games. Something like virtual reality can allow for new and innovative ideas; ideas that great developers will be experimenting with for years to come. It will definitely be hard to market these products to the average consumer or casual gamer. It can be very difficult to show off a virtual reality experience to someone who doesn’t have the headset on at any given moment. I’m interested to see how companies manage to overcome this difficult task nonetheless.
I do believe that virtual reality games will be worth the investment. I’m sure we will get a variety of games that are normal games with VR compatibility added in, but I’m really interested to see the VR exclusive content. What can developers do to take advantage of this new technology? Like I said before, I think some of the really talented studios will shine here. A game like Firewatch could’ve been so much more intriguing with VR. Will No Man’s Sky be a virtual reality game? If so, how will the game control?
There’s a lot to be excited about, but there’s an equal amount to be concerned about as well. Some of the concerns are based on rocky launches with brand new technology in the past. PlayStation VR will be marketed as an add-on device for PlayStation 4 owners. Now lets be honest, the PlayStation Move was extremely underwhelming. It didn’t have a lot of support at launch. Developers had a hard time trying to find a functional way to use it in games. We haven’t heard a lot about what the PlayStation VR will do, what games are going to work for it, a price, or even a release date for the headset. This is cause for some concern, but I understand how difficult it can be to show off something that is so focused on an individual users experience. Either way, I expect to hear a lot at E3 if Sony plans to go all in with virtual reality.
The Oculus Rift is releasing at a $599 price point. This is a heavy investment seeing as to how that doesn’t include the computer with the required specs to run the virtual reality headset. This is something that will be difficult to market to the average consumer at this price for entry. I think that the Oculus Rift will sell well and I can see everybody using virtual reality in some way shape or form within the next 5 to 7 years, but the early adopters should be concerned about the amount of compatible content at launch. Not to mention the bugs that will need to be worked out. It will be interesting to see how this is handled at launch, and just like with any new hardware, my level of excitement is very high for virtual reality.
Concerns aside, the gaming industry is moving in a very innovative direction. As technology advances so do games and the ways in which we interact with them. There is a lot going on behind the scenes here and there is still a lot to see. The wait is almost over and I am truly excited to experience virtual reality first hand.