Three years ago, VR arrived on a wave of hype. Well, we thought it was a wave, but it actually ended up being a bubble which promptly burst. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey was busy making a twonk of himself, the HTC Vive proved more expensive than expected, and the games, where were the games!
The truth of the matter was that we had a front see to the first generation. Consumer VR in its most embryonic form. It was going to have some rough edges and take time to build up a library of must-have VR games, all of which meant paying £600 a little tough to stomach.
Sony, to its credit, breathed a ton of life back into VR. The PSVR was cheaper, yes, but it also broadened the horizons of the VR audience. PSVR swiftly became the bestselling premium VR headset, generating a much larger potential audience for VR developers. Over the last year or so we’ve really seen VR grow as a result of its swelling install base, spurred on by the likes of Beat Saber, AstroBot, Moss, Lone Echo, Tetris Effect, and Skyrim VR, to name but a few.
At times though, PSVR can feel like the anomaly, and even among PlayStation communities there was general anger that Sony’s first State of Play stream chose to focus on VR titles. There’s a negative sentiment around VR that’s proving difficult to shake, even for Sony.
The trouble for VR is that it feels as if it needs a tremendous push from headset manufacturers and developers to actually make it work commercially. A promised gaming revolution, it now feels forced by the money men rather than driven by insane consumer demand for virtual reality. Valve knows VR is what distinguishes Steam from competitors like the Epic Games Store. Oculus has to justify its existence to its Facebook backers. They are forcing VR to become a success, whether we like it or not.
But, the repeated false dawns, ludicrously expensive hardware, and fairly low-key software has instilled a sense of apathy in the average gamer. Even 10 years ago, the very idea of VR would’ve had any gamers’ eyes light up in wonder, dreaming of the possibilities. Now? A VR-related article gets about 20% of the views of a normal article here on GD, for example, and most comments tend to put down VR or complain if a game is exclusive to VR. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s indicative of the general sentiment around the topic.
If we take Valve’s new game as an example. No one’s all that bothered Valve has a new AAA title our this year (potentially even a new Half-Life) purely because it’s VR. Take away the virtual reality trappings and you’d probably be left with one of the most hyped announcements of the year.
All of that would change if each and every one of us had a PCVR headset, of course, and the necessary hardware to run it. That’s nothing more than a pipe dream though if, three years after the HTC Vive debuted, Valve’s new Index HMD still costs $999 all-in. We’re never going to get a critical mass of PC gamers enjoying VR with a price tag like that. For VR to succeed, the focus surely has to be on affordability and ease-of-use, not just performance. We can all get excited about a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti or a Radeon VII, for example, but it’s the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti or the Radeon RX 590 that are going to shift the real numbers.
Bringing this back around to VR, Sony, and to a degree Oculus, seem to be only ones trying to strike that balance. The PSVR is comfortably cheapest premium headset around, while Oculus is about to launch the Oculus Rift S and the standalone Oculus quest. Both are $399 all-in, which is at least moving in the right direction in terms of affordability. That’s surely how VR is going to make it big, but there’s still a ton of skepticism to overcome.
So, with it now coming up to three years since PC VR debuted, where do you stand on the tech? Have you bought a VR headset yet? If not, why now? Get voting and let us know why below!