Is Virtual Reality really going to be a hit in gaming?
With the light beginning to shine on Virtual Reality there are some considerations to be made. Both Sony and Oculus are creating their respective headsets and within the next couple of years both will be finished and released upon the gaming world.
Will Virtual Reality really take the video game industry by storm?
I personally don’t think so for three big reasons. Those big reasons include immersion, Cost, and the peripherals needed to pull it off. There are many other industries in which virtual reality will most likely take off and thrive, but I think it will be just another fad that will fade overtime in the video game industry.
Immersion will be extremely difficult to pull off with many genres. When you inspect your gaming set up now, there is a chair or couch in front of a display device with either a controller in hand or keyboard and mouse. Now you are sitting there and playing a first person shooter with a VR headset on. You can turn your head and look around, but the immersion will not be different from just using your television or monitor. Your hands are still holding a controller or you’re controlling a keyboard and mouse and stationary. The immersion effect will be essentially broken. You need that input from your hands and body to match what’s going on in the game. In a first person shooter you are running and holding a gun and pulling a trigger. Using joysticks and a handful of buttons on a controller just doesn’t match that input you are getting from the VR headset, which makes the virtual reality headset is pretty much useless.
The genre that will work really well is flight simulators. Flight simulators would work well because the immersion effect would be there with the addition of a flight stick. That means that you have to buy a peripheral in order to have that emergent experience. Peripherals would have to go hand in hand with the VR headset. If you’re piloting a plane and have the flight stick and in the chair with VR, then that is optimal. Also an arcade type shooter like Time Crysis with an assault rifle and a pistol on your side would work. You shoot your assault rifle and then run out of bullets. You swing it over your back and pull out your pistol and finish off the target. That would work extremely well. With all of that said the cost would get extremely high.
Cost of the VR headset and the cost to develop for it would probably kill the headset more than the immersion and the cost of the peripherals. I see a number around $250 on the price tag for the device its self. The price may even be higher for the first run of these devices, but I go with $250 as a reasonable cost. In order for the device to sell I don’t think it can cost more than $250. People already have money tied up into their PCs and consoles, so this added cost would be substantial. There is no way to make it cheaper, I don’t think, because of the R&D cost to create this device. The profit would not be there for the company. This will directly affect the install base of a headset. Not everyone can drop $250 on a separate piece of hardware. It will not be a cheap device.
The second part of the cost is the cost for the developer to actually utilize this new technology in their games. We live in a day and age where games are getting more and more expensive to create. The budget for Grand Theft Auto V, for instance, cost Rockstar $265 million to create. Now add onto that the budget to integrate VR into the game. Granted, the game sold like hotcakes, but not every developer hits gold like they did. These days if a AAA game doesn’t sell at least 5 million units, the game is deemed a failure. With the added development cost of VR, games would have to sell even better in order to make a profit. This is all taking into consideration that Sony and Oculus will come up with a standard API for VR. If not then that would mean double the development costs for two separate VR headsets. I personally don’t see the profit to be had for developers to really utilize the hardware well.
I personally don’t see VR taking off as well as a lot of people within this industry might think. I think that the cost to the consumer will be too great. I don’t believe the immersion will be there outside of a couple of niche genres. I am not saying that I hope it will fail; I want VR to succeed and give me new experiences. I want to feel the adrenaline rush of driving a fighter jet in a dogfight against other players online. I want to actually feel like I am the character in the universe and not sitting on my couch. That would be the coolest experience. But I am a realist. You would have to combine move technology that is, let’s face it, and still is not up to par with the peripherals and the VR headset. Sure there will be that Niche community and a few games that utilizes the technology really well, but it will not be main-stream.