With Facebook's purchase of the Oculus Rift, and Sony's forthcoming device (along with whatever Valve has cooking), it seems that VR is once again a "thing" for the first time in over twenty years. While the tech is undeniably cool, and offers several possibilities and applications, the real question is will it stand the test of time, or be seen as yet another passing fad in gaming?
The recent surge of interest in VR tech is hardly unfounded; anyone who spends five minutes with one of the devices can easily see how amazing it is, and its very existence opens several doors in the world of game development that can potentially change the very way we interact with games. Its limits as a form of technology are limited only by the creativity of those who develop games for it. That's exciting news, and fingers crossed we see that creativity begin to take shape in the coming years.
On the other hand, VR tech isn't cheap to manufacture, or develop for. Not only that, but it takes a huge toll on the hardware it runs on, since the device essentially has to render the entire game twice--one for each eye. That leaves an expensive device that few publishers and developers are going to be quick to invest in and develop for. The trick will be figuring out a way to make these devices both affordable for consumers and easy enough to develop for. That's a tall order at this point in time.
Perhaps the biggest roadblock VR headset developers are facing is spreading the word about them. This tech isn't something that can be explained--it literally has to be seen to be believed. That means kiosks set up in stores and malls all across the country. Now, consider that the units set up for demoing at PAX and related gaming events were allegedly responsible for a few cases of pink-eye, and you're now not only talking about investing in demo stations, but attendants who can man and clean those stations after each use. That's yet another tall order.
Here's hoping that those companies behind the coming onslaught of VR headsets handle the entire endeavor correctly, and we're presented with affordable, powerful devices that stand the test of time, and open up the world of gaming to a wider audience as well as new experiences.