An In-Depth Look into Virtual Reality Gaming

An In-Depth Look into Virtual Reality Gaming

July 13, 2016

/ by Tin Salamunic

While the three biggest players in the VR gaming space haven’t revealed official sales figures, it's safe to say that virtual reality gaming is here to stay. But as the initial high demand for the Oculus Rift and other high profile headsets tapers off many enthusiasts and critics alike are wondering whether virtual reality hardware and software as it currently exists will be the driving force behind the widespread acceptance of VR as entertainment.  

And there's absolutely no consensus. According to TechCrunch, skeptics of today's VR technology need to accept that widespread consumer adoption is just around the corner. The Wall Street Journal has told readers to try VR (headset and all) as soon as possible. On the other hand, tech writer Meredith Placko has asserted that virtual reality gaming is more like playing a Wii than actually serious gaming. One telling Fortune headline even blithely declared that "It Doesn’t Look Like Virtual Reality Is a Thing Yet."

Will Virtual Reality Catch On and When?
Popular or not, VR is no longer just a novelty. What is certain is that virtual reality gaming isn't going anywhere even if some of the technology makes VR look like an expensive curiosity. Why are people not rushing out to buy the tech? A lot of VR headsets have a relatively steep price tag and require users to upgrade to a high-end PC to play. That's potentially off putting to anyone looking for budget-friendly entertainment. 

At the other end of the spectrum you have companies like Samsung, which shipped Galaxy S7 preorders with a free Gear VR headset and six games. That initiative alone may have done more to further the advance of VR gaming than all of the media attention the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive received prior to their releases. And really, in the long run it's probably mobile VR that has the best chance of turning virtual reality into mainstream entertainment. 

It's About the Games and Lack Thereof
As more headsets that make use of the technology we already have – smartphones - hit the market, the next hurdle the VR industry has to overcome is the lack of titles. As Hayden Dingman put it in PCWorld, "Recommending VR would be a hell of a lot easier if there were more to do at the moment."

It isn't that there aren't games and experiences for today's VR tech, but rather that none of them are living up to the potential of the platform. Fantastic Contraption and Starseed for the Vive, Lucky's Tale and Chronos for Oculus, and Darknet and VR Karts: Sprint for the Gear VR are all stand out examples of enjoyable virtual reality games but a comprehensive list of great VR titles would be relatively short at this point.

In other words there's a lot of promise, but so far nothing that wows beyond the innovation factor, and a lot of issues that still need to be fixed. 

Oculus has gorgeous graphics and arguably the best lineup of games, but a hardware shortage mean even enthusiasts aren't able to play. Sony's PlayStation VR will ultimately have an impressive list of titles but the console system's lack of power means its virtual worlds can feel jagged and jerky. And the Vive continues to bill itself as a high-end product rather than a mass market one, which is going to be an automatic turn off to consumers who aren't tech enthusiasts or early adopters. 

A Less Immersive Future?
The most surprising thing about virtual reality gaming may be that for all the hype, it's augmented reality that's catching on among consumers. Just look at Pokemon Go, the viral augmented reality success story that's making headlines left and right. Maybe the future of VR gaming is actually a future of mobile gaming enhanced by AR. 

Then again, while some pretty cool mobile VR and AR games are now playable thanks to the fastest mobile processors on the market (e.g., Snapdragon), you shouldn't write headsets off just yet. It may be that the VR and AR games of the future will be played on something a lot like Microsoft's HoloLens - just with all the kinks worked out and a price tag that's a lot more consumer-friendly.

Article by: Jessica Oaks

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