Saturday, July 9, 2016

Is VR the Future of Gaming?

Over the past few years there has been murmuring about VR (virtual reality) and how it's going to change the landscape of the video game industry. As the years passed though, the gaming community only received bits and pieces about VR tech rather than full concrete facts, all the while seeing different companies invest millions of dollars into this mystery technology. This past June at E3 in Los Angles, gamers everywhere were given a more in-depth look at what's to come from VR in the form of the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and Playstation VR. While some gamers and critics are excited for what VR will bring to the table, many others are wary that VR doesn't really have anything new to offer and will end up being an overpriced gaming industry "gimmick". All this talk brings us back to the title of this post's discussion: Is VR the future of gaming? In my short post I want to offer two possibilities/scenarios I can see happening with VR technology in the gaming industry in the next few years.

Why VR could be the future of gaming:

I believe one of the major facets that makes playing video games and the video game experience enjoyable is in the aspect of experiencing something new. Now when I say "new", I don't necessarily mean reinventing a formula every time a new game is made, but rather having a "fresh" experience even with old assets or elements from other games (some of my favorites games are refinements of games or genres that came before them!). Whether that new thing be a new game mechanic, a new genre of game, a new graphical interface or resolution, a new story element, or a new control scheme, etc… I think all these potential "new" aspects in gaming have the power to attract people who've never played games as well as "veteran gamers". If VR can open a new natural and intuitive way for all these things I just listed to be experienced by old and new players, I do truly believe VR could have a space in the video game market.

Why VR might not be the future of gaming:

Cost and Intuitiveness. These two things will be the biggest hurdle in VR being adopted by the mainstream gaming community and the general public. First looking at cost, VR is extremely expensive when compared to standard console or PC gaming. Anyone interested in playing the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive will have to shell out about $1,000 for just the VR headgear and controllers plus they will need to invest about $1500-$2000 more on a  top of the line gaming PC with a high end graphics card and cutting edge processors to actually power the VR system. In total we're looking at almost $3000 in some cases and that's a high barrier of entry, especially when you look at the fact that most console gamers usually invest about $500 on their home console systems. Playstation VR isn't that much better with a startup cost of $400 plus an investment of a PS4 at about $350, though Sony will launch a new PS4 Neo alongside the Playstation VR that will be more powerful and optimized for VR which will probably clock in at about $500. So when it's all said and done Playstation VR will cost about $750-900. With any of these VR options someone might choose, there is a substantial financial cost for technology they're just not sure about. 

The second problem I see with VR is how intuitive it will be for gamers and non gamers. VR seems like it would work great in some applications like flight training or combat simulation or medical examination, but I'm not sure if gamers and developers will really catch on to how this new form of entertainment will truly change the way we intuitively play games. The best positive intuitive comparison I can draw is with motion controls with the Wii and touch screen controls with mobile games. Love or hate either of these types of innovations in gameplay (when people say the word gimmick when describing different innovative concepts in gaming, my blood boils a little!) these controls styles with the Wii and mobile devices intuitively made sense. I can swing my sword or aim my gun at the TV with a Wiimote or I can touch the screen on my mobile phone or tablet to make my character jump or speed up in a mobile game; these actions intuitively made sense with the control setup, if they didn't (and in some bad software they didn't) I and most other gamers would rather just have a normal controller with a control stick and buttons. In that sense, VR will need some sort of amazing game or tech demo that can convince supporters and skeptics alike that requiring a headset with goggles and at times hand motion controllers to play a game is an evolution in intuitive gameplay.

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