Is virtual reality the future?

Perhaps gamers aren't as hyped for VR as marketing screenshots would have you believe
Perhaps gamers aren’t as hyped for VR as the marketing screenshots would have you believe

With Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR, Sony’s reveal of project Morpheus and some excited previews by the press, it can be very easy to be swept away by the positive energy and excitement surrounding virtual reality.

After all, what could be better for gaming than putting on a pair of goggles and observing carefully constructed worlds through the eyes of your player character?

Except, immersion has never been too important for gamers.

‘This changes everything’ was the tagline for Sony’s PlayStation move at E3 2010. Unfortunately for Sony and Microsoft, the motion control battle of E3 2010 that would determine the ‘future of gaming’ changed very little. Despite allowing gamers to use motion controls to feel truly immersed in the title they were experiencing, both Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s PlayStation move failed to get off the ground with the core gaming audience. This was partially owed to the weak launch lineup of games but mostly because gamers failed to see the potential of these devices.

If immersion was as great a concern for gamers as some might have you believe, surely these well reviewed and well developed pieces of technology would be more popular with their target audience.

We see a similar problem with the rise and fall of 3D technology in home entertainment. Most consumers were bubbling with excitement about the technology; 3D TVs were on full display at trade shows and malls. But, after a while, consumers experienced the technology and most were seriously underwhelmed. Many consumers suffered from headaches and eyestrain and most failed to see why to spend such an exorbitant amount of money on technology that felt gimmicky and underdeveloped.

Since most consumers are evidently not crazy about products that increase immersion, in order to stand a fighting chance, virtual reality needs to take a cue from the failure of 3D and motion controlled entertainment and make sure it meets the following criteria.

VR goggles cannot afford to be as bulky, cumbersome and downright uncool as they currently are; they can’t afford to look like failed early concept art of Robocop’s visor. The technology needs to become more compact to appeal to mainstream consumers.

In addition, the technology cannot be gimmicky. Sony  and Facebook cannot expect gamers to rally behind virtual reality if the technology feels under-cooked and software support is thin on the ground. Games and software needs to be VR compatible for launch.

Lastly, the price cannot be too high. For most gamers, virtual reality is currently seen as a luxury, not a necessity and as such, to take off, virtual reality has to convince consumers that it’s a good value proposition.

If VR can satisfy these conditions, it might earn a place in gamers’ homes and, as Mr Zuckerberg has indicated, the sky is the limit from there.