What is the Future of VR Gaming?
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Well, it was announced last month that the Oculus Quest 2 would be coming out in October. While not really a secret, as bit of information about it have been coming out since at least June, it gave a clear view about what was expected for at least the next Oculus Quest, possibly even the future of VR. But to understand why that might be the future, it would be a good idea to understand we needed to get to this point to have the potential of a massive explosion in the VR market.

Virtual Reality has had a bit of a limited appeal since it first started emerging in the 1970s. Part of the reason is the fact that through the 1970s and most of the 1980s, the only places going for it were medical simulation, flight simulation, automotive design, and the military. In the 1980s, there would be a lot of experimentation, with the most recent targeted audience being education in general, but it still wasn’t consumer-oriented, so not commercially viable yet. The 1990s saw a massive influx in investment in VR, but a lot of that just kind of fell flat for a mixture of price and technology reasons. Apple’s QuickTime VR wasn’t virtual reality but a panoramic image viewer. The Virtual Boy, while novel, was a total mess because of the lack of investment from even Nintendo, as through its life cycle it would only have about 14 games, only three of them being something that would make the case for purchase. Even Linden Labs had been trying to create virtual reality hardware, but while they failed in making the hardware, they succeeded in making Second Life. The place where VR really started hitting the ground in “commercial” spaces were arcades, though only the larger ones or the specialty ones. The 2000s had a huge dip in investment for virtual reality outside of the usual governmental or education outlets because of essentially burn out and the disappearance of quite a few arcades. And here we are now, in the second wave of commercial VR.

VR is still a niche despite major successes and inroads into the commercial space. For example, PC VR was held back in some major ways by how demanding the headsets were and still are. Aside from a big price tag for the headset itself, usually around or more expensive than a game console itself, it also required beefy computer specs. Mobile VR was also really limited with the phone-based VR and Oculus Go, but those didn’t deliver on the promise of VR. Coupled with that, with the slowly growing VR install base, there hasn’t been much development in comparison to PC or consoles, at least until PSVR and the Oculus Quest came out. PSVR had good specs and it’s easier to drop the money on it if you already have a PS4 or PS4 Pro. Since the PS4 and PS 4 Pro had a phenomenal install base, it gave developers a lot more confidence. The Oculus Quest allowed for quick adoption by being a pretty well-spec’d standalone VR headset, which also released around the time of a new Half Life game. The relatively low cost with a must have game helped increase the VR install base substantially.

All that said, it seems like a PSVR2 is in development for the PS5. PS5 is also going to be backward compatible with the original PSVR. On the side of Oculus Quest 2, that seems like the best deal that could really cause an explosion for VR. Higher resolution and capabilities, better constructed and designed controllers, handtracking, and a variety of other features. Unfortunately, the big issue for the Quest 2 seems to be that they didn’t increase the battery life between the Quest and the Quest 2, so it seems like Facebook will be selling the headset at a loss and making back their money on accessories, like the battery pack. Some countries have also already banned the Quest 2 for the moment over the fact that it requires a Facebook account to link to. So it’ll be a bit before it’s really the future that got promised. Still, Facebook also announced some other major potentially system-selling games, like a VR Splinter Cell and VR Assassin’s Creed.

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Now it’s time to make a prediction about the future. Facebook, if they’re smart, will remove the Facebook account requirement for Oculus. That’ll open up the market for them more. Sony will continue updating PSVR and its capabilities going forward with every generation, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually made a portable PS platform that was an all-in-one VR headset. At the very least, they’d be able to take notes on how Oculus came up with the Quest line while doing that. Nintendo will likely work on something for the future that is more AR or XR related, rather than being straight VR. After all, they did start playing around with that in a variety of ways in the past, including AR games using the 3DS’s outward camera. Microsoft is a bit of a wild card though. Team Xbox has already said that they don’t have plans for integrating VR. However, there has been some development done for the HoloLens, Microsoft’s AR holographic headset. My guess, within five years, Microsoft will finally come out with an affordable commercial version of the headset, with one of the biggest selling points of the headset having some direct integration with the Xbox platform.

Jon Gronli
Jon Gronli
@JGronli

Contributing Writer
Date: 10/27/2020

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