Virtual Reality (VR) has not exploded onto the scene in the same way that consoles did in the ’80s. The high price tag, advertising challenges, (often) annoying setups, and perceived lack of games has somewhat diminished VR’s ability to break into the mainstream.
But that will all change within the next few years.
Current developments from some of the biggest companies in the world are set to break the VR dam walls. Facebook, Sony, and now even Apple are all competing to create the most consumer-ready headset yet. But how exactly will the VR landscape change from what it already is? What’s stopping it from happening? What else needs to occur for VR to dominate?
The answers to these questions are why VR is going to become a household device in the near future.
Sony’s VR Commitment
Unlike the now-infamous PS Vita, Sony is committed to making high-quality VR accessible to millions of people.
Releasing in 2016, the PlayStation VR (PSVR) has been a success for Sony despite its issues. Outdated Move controllers, basic tracking, and setting up which uses about 6 more cables than it should. All these niggles and nitpicks did not stop the PSVR from being a cult favorite, with over 5 million headsets being sold up to now. What made audiences more attracted to Sony’s offering than, say, the more high-tech Valve and HTC offerings?
The two things that most PlayStation owners needed: A low price and fantastic games.
In particular, the games are a true testament to the developer’s talents. Excellent titles like Astrobot, Resident Evil 7, Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, and the newly released Hitman trilogy. These should not be possible on a headset that uses 2010 PlayStation Move controllers. These titles only scratch the surface, and prove Sony’s commitment to making high-quality VR games themselves, and partnering with fantastic third party devs.
If these kinds of experiences are possible now, just imagine what a PSVR 2 headset would look like. Hopefully, we won’t have to imagine for too much longer.
Reports seem to come out every month surrounding new patents for the next PSVR. Other insider rumors include a wireless headset, up to 4K resolution, and updated controllers. While far too expensive for the common buyer, Valve’s Index and even the Oculus Quest 2 have made the PSVR feel far more dated than it should, so expect Sony to pull out all the stops on an updated headset. An estimated guess would likely place the PSVR 2 release date as some time from late 2021, to early 2022.
If Sony does release a new PSVR 2, we can only hope that it will set a new standard for VR headsets, and allow a new wave of consumers to buy into this exciting new tech.
Facebook and Apple: Much Needed Competition
It’s all fine and dandy for video game-centric companies to try their hands. But when world-dominating companies like Apple and Facebook are throwing their hats into the VR ring, suddenly the tech’s widespread viability becomes a real possibility.
Of course, the most tangible example of this is Facebook’s Oculus Quest line of headsets. The Oculus Quest 2 has already surpassed monthly Quest 1 users, and it’s easy to see why. It’s wireless, PC-less form factor makes VR a much more tantalizing prospect for the average buyer, rather than daisy-chaining towers and sensors around a $1500 PC.
The elephant in the room of course is the need to sign in to your Facebook account to play the Oculus Quest. This is bypass-able through third-party means, but it still makes many people uneasy. Facebook has already been under scrutiny for its data use and overall intrusive nature. Whether this is really stopping a lot of people from buying a Quest is still yet to be foreseen. But it’s still something important to mention.
And real competition (and in many ways a market leader) can only be good for VR. This is true of all tech. Back in the day, you had Sega and Nintendo duking it out. Nowadays, it’s Sony and Microsoft striving to the main console dog while Nintendo does their own thing. Now, with Facebook, Valve, Sony, HTC, and more competing to make the best headset possible, it can only be a good thing for us.
Can Apple make VR ‘Cool?’
Just this month, a report from Bloomberg stated that Apple is planning to release its own VR headset by as early as 2022. While it is said to be immensely powerful and niche, and may even be scrapped, Apple even being interested in this tech should have every VR fan excited.
Put simply, Apple knows how to make things ‘cool’ to the public eye. AirPods looked ‘dumb’ before everyone and their mum grabbed a pair, and suddenly wireless earbuds became synonymous with their brand. Smartphones that were big and clunky suddenly became streamlined when Apple released the iPhone way back when. Love them or hate them, Apple has vast amounts of experience with making seemingly complex technology, feel fresh, streamlined, and stylish.
This is especially important as VR remains an obscure and even scary piece of technology to many people. It’s new, complicated to demonstrate without in-person demos, and sticks to someone’s face. These combined make the technology obtuse and just plain weird. If Apple can come in and make VR approachable for people with these kinds of opinions, it will go a long way to making it take off into the mainstream.
VR Needs It’s Mario: A Final Word
While most of these things are really happening before our eyes, there’s one more hurdle VR needs to overcome. One that is currently up in the air, and could take years to arrive.
VR needs its Super Mario 64.
Being a new kind of video game experience, VR is still yet to have a real standard for its interactivity. Essentially, there is no clear cut way for developers to make a VR game.
Hitman 3 uses a combination of DualShock 4 sticks and buttons, with motion controls. Half-Life: Alyx uses finger tracking and room-scale movement. Blood and Truth uses dual motion controllers with teleportation movement. These are all some of the finest VR games ever made, and the fact that they all use different ways to move and interact with the world proves my point even further.
When Super Mario 64 was released, it set the bar for what a 3D game should be in every way. Finally, there was a blueprint for all 3D developers to use. This is exactly what VR is missing right now.
Whether it’s Sony commissioning one of their AAA first parties to make a VR game, Apple producing their own VR launch title, or Facebook making an Oculus system seller, somebody out there has to make a Mario-level impact.
VR proliferating can improve the video game experience far beyond what we possibly could have imagined. And I certainly hope it does.