It would be the ultimate nerdgasm following everyone’s technological wet dream wouldn’t it? Being able to throw your monitors or TVs into a big pile in the centre of town and unceremoniously burn them like the heretical nonsense they are. But are we really on the cusp of having the whole family sit around the living room with headsets on, or will this remain simply a terrifying dream for the time being?
The truth is that there are multiple barriers currently in place to realizing a VR future. The first is simply the immersion factor. Having sampled the technology multiple times now, I can honestly say that while very fun, the Oculus Rift is really not adequate for the vast majority of titles, at least not yet. The hardware truly comes into its own in games where the player is stationary or ‘on rails.’ Blasting down space pirates in ‘Elite: Dangerous’ or simply enjoying a nice roller-coaster ride are the types of scenarios where the holes in the fabric that provide the proverbial ‘smoke and mirrors’ are not visible to the naked eye. However, try to play a game like Skyrim where you’re required to move freely and suddenly the rift yanks you out of the experience in various ways, such as having black lines around the edge of your vision, or simply having to use a keyboard or controller to walk around.
Another issue is comfort, after all, we play games to relax, have fun and often expect to invest a good few hours into our play-time in one sitting. I’m sure many of us have felt the ache of having a poorly built headset on our ears for hours on end, so just imagine the discomfort of having a big box attached to your face. Unsurprisingly, it begins to grate after twenty or thirty minutes and you soon find yourself having to remove it and take a break. Once again, this is perfectly fine if you’re simply dipping in to have a bit of quick fun, but for any remotely serious session you’ll find yourself frustrated with having to constantly stop and start.
Finally, we come to what will be the main hurdle for most of us, the price tag. The Oculus Rift launches in a matter of weeks but at $599 or £499, many will feel that it is far too high of an investment when they could probably upgrade their entire rig for the same price. Similarly, Playstation VR’s winter release will see it hit the shelves at a comparatively smaller $399 or £282 and while this is less of an investment, it is still effectively a choice between a headset or about 5 brand new games. If history is doomed to repeat itself like it so often is *cough cough* power glove *cough cough* virtual boy *cough cough* then low sales could easily lead to a lack of support, even further dooming VR to a very specialist crowd. To be fair, I’m making fun of retro tech from the ‘90s but you only really have to look at current generation hardware, in the form of the PS Vita, to see how quickly a large company will abandon support for a system if it doesn’t immediately sell well.
So to summarize, I’d encourage everyone reading this to go out and buy a Rift or the PlayStation VR if you can afford it. There are many fun and new experiences to be had with them and the future is certainly looking bright for our plucky little hobby. But don’t be expecting it to replace what you already have. The traditional manner of playing games on a TV or monitor will be here to stay for quite some time yet.