The purpose of this piece is to asses the mainstream viability of VR as a whole as well as narrowing it down to "The Big Three" players in the VR space at the moment. Namely, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Sony's PlayStation VR. These are the three hoping to make the biggest splash during the initial roll out of this new frontier. The question is, even with the biggest push of new hardware the industry has seen in recent years, are these juggernauts of hype going to be able to make a dent in more than just the Corest of the Core? I think it's going to to take looking at the rhetoric so far and what each and the smaller players are bringing to the table.
First off, let's look at VR as a general concept before diving into the specifics of each company. The idea of virtual reality isn't new. We've seen countless pop culture media popularize the notion to varying degrees of success. From using VR to create simulations to make us smarter like in "Lawnmower Man" to living in simulations without realizing it like "The Matrix", we have been bombarded with what VR "looks like". However, the biggest hurdle that this nascent industry is going to have is that VR doesn't look like anything at the moment because it's era hasn't even started yet. Consumers are going to have an idea of what it should be and it will be up to Oculus or Sony or HTC to pull that off. It's got to be easy to set up, easy to suspend disbelief, and easy to share with friends and family members on top of that.
The cost already is a barrier of entry. The Oculus on its own cost $599 USD and that is before you have a rig that can successfully run it. From the verbiage that I have heard, one needs at least a $1000 USD machine to run it at any satisfactory level. So already, VR has a big hurdle. Same with the HTC Vive. It's going to cost $799. Granted it'll come with some extra peripherals, but still, one is going to have a pretty decent gaming machine to run it. This is going to make justifying getting these devices a hard sell. This is because the vast majority of people haven't even put a headset on let alone convinced to fork over that kind of doe.
prompt someone to drop 6 to 7 hundred dollars plus a gaming PC for now. For some, that's enough. For me, I want to be enticed. I'll use the example of the original Wii a few years back. Nintendo had compelling software that came with that system right out of the gate. Wii Sports devoured hours of my time. The got me to buy the system. I only wished the influx of games that showcased the motion controls came in at a steady pace. I digress.
Maybe Eve: Valkyrie that's coming with the Oculus will be that software. I haven't really seen any marketing for that game though. Like, at all. The only reason I know about it is because it has been demoed for a while. There are a few other titles, but they are so under marketed that I don't even know their names off the top of my head. This can be dangerous for fledgling tech that needs to creat evangelists early in its life. So far, there hasn't been anything.
One VR headset that may pull on ahead in this race is the HTC Vive. Being co-produced by Valve, the developer of the biggest digital retail store in the world, it has the ability to showcase all of the new games that come out that take true advantage of virtual reality. It wouldn't cost them anything to market these games. All they need to do is place the game strategically on the front page of the Steam store. Boom: interact marketing. They would have the ability to throw a bunch of new games a proverbial wall and find the killer app that sticks. Oculus would have to find the right software to throw their marketing money at. The same will go for Sony. They won't be able to market every single title out there and they will need to be judicious in what software to showcase.
Keep in mind, I don't want VR to fail, but I think that it fights an uphill battle. I actually want the tech to push the video game medium forward. I actually WANT it to succeed. To do this, I think that it'll eventually need to reach a price point that is lower than it is right now, and I think it needs software that will make us yearn for it. This is probably the most possible at this point in time than it's ever been. If it's going to happen, than I think now is the time. With the technology finally reaching the point where it's feasible to suspend disbelief, I'm excited about the prospects. Can you imagine a survival horror game as immersive as actually feeling like being there?
I'm sure there are people out there who have already come to these conclusions and they are part of very specialized teams within these companies trying to overcome these hurdles. If I'm thinking about it, you can be damn sure people getting paid six figure salaries are thinking about. This gives me huge hopes for a VR studded future.
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