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VR is an Uphill Battle

BrianStas Nov 03, 2017. 10 comments

Full Visual Immersion.

That’s basically the whole selling point of this. It’s been talked to death, but I can’t help but continue thinking about the future of Virtual Reality. In concept, it’s exactly what we all want for games. It puts us right there! We can practically feel the wind through our eyeballs! This is what we’ve dreamed of since birth! I will forever live in VR Animal Crossing! Ok, a bit much, but it’s supposed to be the next step in gaming history.

But I just can’t shake the feeling that it’s doomed from the start.

Hopes are high for this thing, sure, but how many people really have the hardware and money to throw at a device touting some of the least inspired games I’ve seen in a long while. Sure, it’s difficult to create some innovative game on a product that doesn’t even have the plastic wrap taken off yet, but the launch of a new system is ridiculously important. This is the time where the machines need to demonstrate that they fill some hole in our gaming lives, yet they come out with little more than a whimper. I can’t say I’m some marketing expert, but I’m sure as hell going to put my economics minor to work right now.

So, the main necessity for any product is demand. Obviously, there’s demand for these products or we wouldn’t have come this far. However, there are some serious barriers to entry for the potential consumers. For starters, nothing about the Oculus or Vive is cheap. Both have some high price tags, and those aren’t made any better by the fact that you also need a pretty solid computer to back it up. Therefore, the general population would have to throw down some serious cash before being able to use either device. This already narrows down the potential market to a relatively small size.

Then, you’d need to factor in the potential risks that the consumer is making. New technologies come out all the time, and if there’s one lesson that I’ve learned, it’s that you never come in on the first generation. The first generation always gets the shaft as soon as round two comes out. This means that a good amount of people will probably hold off until a better model comes out, so that they know the product will have sustained utility. This means we are looking at a potential market of early adopters that enjoy computer games and have money to spare.

This isn’t exactly an ideal market for big games. Why would a company like Activision invest in a game that would take more work, more technology, and more programming just to sell to the tiny market of people who own VR headsets? Why would they not just make another mainstream, console-based shooter? It’s just difficult to see any company really taking that dive. Even if some amazing game comes out exclusively for VR, it’s still a tough sell for people to pony up over $600 just to play that one title.

So what needs to happen? This is the future of gaming at stake here! However, I can’t really see some proper path that could save these systems. They’ve come out and said that they’re selling them at the lowest cost possible just to get people purchasing these headsets. So, it’s safe to say that there won’t be a price cut in the foreseeable future. Therefore, I’m thinking that this will go the way of Google Glass. It’s an interesting technology, but there’s just too much pushing against it.

In my opinion, I feel that VR will probably act like an extra peripheral that will only function in the most basic of ways for most games. Companies will add in tiny features that may make the games slightly more enjoyable, but no one will really take the plunge to make the headsets a must-have item. Eventually, it’ll just be a tool to look around a bit in a game that’s fully functional with a regular computer. Sooner or later, the market will die down, and support will trickle in just from the companies that created the headsets in the first place.

I really hope I’m wrong in all of this, but my pessimistic side has run me out of the market for VR. It’ll be cool to see at someone else’s house, but 2016 will not be the year I get my own Oculus Rift.

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