It seems like the latest hype in gaming these days is virtual reality headsets. This new technological innovation has taken over consumer shows and comic conventions by storm. From the Oculus Rift to a cardboard box glued onto a Galaxy 7, every gamer and mega tech corporation is out to get a piece of the virtual pie, but how virtual is it? Will VR be the next big thing in gaming or a passing fad like Google Glass, the Tomigachi, or Tony Danza? We decided to take a look at these gaming devices and what you can expect from the in the next ten years.
The biggest test for viability of a product is usually the capitalist system that kills ideas, like flying cars, and promotes other ideas, like wheeled-hoverboards that may or may not explode. -Capitalism is weird- Regardless, when we’re talking about the financial sustainability of virtual reality gaming it works best to start with the two most popular and touted gaming systems, the Oculus Rift and the lesser known HTC Vive. Upon initial release both managed to sell out their product very quickly. However, since their release their sales has pretty much come to a halt. In fact, according to Forbes, Oculus Rift lost tens of millions of dollars its first year of sale. Yet, that was also expected.
Despite the massive loss of money, everyone from Sony to Steam to Facebook is investing in making more and more games for virtual reality, because there is a feeling among investors and designers that future profits will far outweigh short-term losses. According to Statista, revenues from virtual reality products and software are expected to spike to $5.2 billion in 2018. They also predict that there will be around 171 million virtual gaming devices in homes by that year. Comparatively, Sony and Microsoft have only sold around 60 million Xbox One and PS4 consoles since their launch in 2013. Still, those are bold predictions for VR technology, but is that all they are, nothing more than predictions, which are as virtual as the graphics of the games themselves?
Please know that we are not discouraging the rise of virtual reality. In fact, the predictions could be right and one day we might all be walking around our houses falling over the couch, the dog, and our first born all while trying to slay a level 45 dragon. All we are really saying is that a lot of people remain unconvinced at the power and prowess of these devices. Gaming -for the most part- still remains largely done through consoles or computers. Maybe that’s why VR is looking to expand into the general consumer market as well as the gaming industry.
VR’s Guide to Walking into Traffic
According to Deloitte Global, and their projections for virtual reality headsets, they foresee two types of devices, a “full feature” and a “mobile” headset. Whereas the “full-feature” is basically the gaming headset we have been discussing so far, the “mobile” version is cheaper and incorporates a high-end piece that basically allows a user to wear their mobile device on their head. This is already possible with a lot of current phones, but these current incarnations are more like hype-grabbing add-ons. Exclusively, VR mobile devices will be more of a general purpose device. They will be a CR headset with smart phone features, not vice-versa. You will be able to use them to play mobile-type games… So, Candy Crush in 3D, but it also will have several other apps for your personal use.
The most notable will be TV and movies. In 2016, the film and television industry has not seen much impact or competition from VR devices, but that could change. Already there are movie makers and other entertainment front-liners experimenting with the virtual reality technology. For now the camera equipment needed to capture VR experiences remains expensive and usually out-of-reach of casual hobbyist, but not for long. Popular TV shows, such as Game of Thrones and Adventure Time already have accompanying virtual reality experiences. Bjork -remember her- won an award for a music video she produced in the virtual world, and even TV news shows, like Vice, have experimented in using the technology to tell stories and put watchers in the middle of the action.
Beyond those obvious applications, there are still many others worth talking about, including things like messaging, phone calls, and even augmented reality.
Pirates with Google Glass say ‘AR’
Remember Google Glass? It was Google’s attempt to hold up its part of the bet they made with Bluetooth to see who could make everyone look more awkward and pretentious. Though Glass failed -I’m not sure anyone has yet broke the news to Google- it did start a conversation about another type of virtual reality device… augmented reality. We have talked about this before, because this summer saw the biggest explosion of AR gaming to date with the release of Pokemon Go. Augmented reality and AR gaming is basically just that, a digital overlay placed over the already existing environment, and if VR headsets are going “mobile” -as we know they are- than it is only going to be a matter of time before we have a merging of these two ideas. Though playing Call of Duty 18 is going to be fun in virtual reality, imagine how much more fun it will be to play Call of Duty 22 in augmented reality. Your neighbors backyard could become a war torn battlefield and with every click of your fist your friends will fall dead at… on second thought that also sounds a little disturbing, but we’re sure there will be AR puppies or something to balance it out.
Augmented reality devices are already in development. Similar to smart watches AR headsets will link up with your mobile phone to give you access to everything from onscreen navigation to Facebook to picture taking to phone messaging to -of course- gaming. Minecraft even has a demo version that works with the Microsoft HoloLens. Instead of building your Minecraft world on a computer or an Xbox you could build your virtual world, similar to how you construct Legos on your coffee table. Then you just pick it up and put it on a shelf to save for later, literally.
Down the virtual reality road, the same could be conceivably be done for anything from artwork to simulated plants. You could save them to a geographical location in your house and anyone wearing AR or VR headsets could look in that direction and see you virtual painting or flower vase. Of course this also means that when walking down with your headset you should not be surprised to buildings or billboards advertising products and services marketed directly to you based upon your Google, Amazon, and other Internet searches. So don’t get too upset if you find yourself in Times Square and suddenly all the billboards are promoting “Live Girls” or “Meet Single Russian Women,” because in the future, that’s going to be on you.
For right now, however, we can’t be sure of what the future of virtual reality gaming will be as a viable platform. Mainstream gamers may reject it because of motion sickness, usability issues, or because of a multitude of other bugs that still exist in the concept. However, we tend to believe those predictions made by Forbes and Statista. We have a feeling VR and AR technology will be with us for long time to come.