Hello all and welcome to “The K/D Ratio”, where myself and Daniel talk about certain things in the gaming industry, last time we talked about No Man’s Sky, and voiced our concerns about whether or not the game will end up becoming a massive disappointment. Today we change topics and discuss Virtual Reality Gaming.
2016 is a big year for gaming, not only do we have a huge catalogue of big AAA games of all different genres planned to launch sometime this year, but we also have some of the most unique and fun looking indie games we’ve ever seen. Nintendo are on the horizon with their so far classified Nintendo NX that we barely know any information on, which surely will change sometime soon with E3 coming up. But most importantly 2016 will be known for Virtual Reality Gaming. Now, Virtual Reality in gaming isn’t something new for those of us that remember the Virtual Boy and how that experiment turned out, but VR is the next big thing since motion controls that attempts to shake and change traditional gaming. It’s now or never for VR and it’s going to be exciting to see how it affects the games industry.
Back in 1995, Nintendo released the Virtual Boy, a console way ahead of its time. Its release date in Japan was on July 21st and they discounted the console the very same year on December 22nd, it was slaughtered by critics and became a huge commercial failure selling 770,000 units. But that was over 10 years ago, technology has come a very along way from then and so has gaming, so this is a good time to be excited, but for some people and especially me this won’t change a thing, well not yet anyway. I’m not that interested in its capabilities or endless possibilities, and it wont get me to put my controller down. Wake me up when we can plug our brains into a computer system that puts our bodies in a deep stasis and projects ourselves into the actual gaming world, something like Sword Art Online. Now that’s what I call Virtual Reality.
Before I go into my reasons why I currently don’t see it for VR and why I’m concerned, I just need to say, while VR isn’t going to be for everyone there is definitely a market out there for it to exist alongside consoles. Innovation and fresh ideas are what the games industry needs to grow, the technology is amazing and there is potential if used and developed right, that said I have 3 main reasons why VR wont take off in 2016.
Price is always a touchy subject when in regards to a new console or product, if the company lists its product too low, they will lose profits and it will be hard for them to do price drops in the future. If they price too high, it scares off future customers, offers a chance for the competition to undercut them, and angers loyal early adopters when the product does eventually get a price cut.
I always knew that VR would be very costly, but I didn’t expect a pre-order price of $599 (roughly £400-£500). That price is outrageous and not everyone is going to be able to just throw away money like that. It’s a shame the prices aren’t more suitable towards the consumers, because it would be great to use it from time to time if it was to take off and earn its place, but this might just be the first phase of VR. I don’t fancy being a guinea pig and testing out the product with those kinds of prices.
There will be a lot of buyer’s remorse, and while that is normal for anything, I think it will have a bigger impact on other gamers that are still on the fence about VR. Once I’ve played all the VR launch games and when the novelty wears off, will I still look back and think, that was a worthy investment, or will I ponder and wished I had waited until sometime in the future?
Lack of Support and Games
Name me one great PS move exclusive, I honestly cannot think of one game worth mentioning, Sony saw the success of the Nintendo Wii and still couldn’t come up with a few decent games of their own. The PS Move and PS Vita have lacked must play titles and system sellers, so that doesn’t fill me with confidence to buy the PS VR at launch, fully aware that they haven’t been able to support their own products in the past. Motion Control gaming was supposed to have taken off last gen and that failed miserably other than Nintendo. What makes things different this time around?
I’m not about to drop $599 (roughly £400-£500) on the Oculus Rift or PS VR at launch. Because paying that kind of money just to play party games, poor quality games that just demonstrate what the hardware can do or any other kinds of shovelware isn’t appealing when there are console games I could be saving up for instead. I would want unique experiences that are enjoyable and of high quality, games exclusive to the hardware and big AAA titles that can prove VR is the future, sadly I can’t see any of that happening, most devs will continue to make games for current gen consoles as the install base is there and may tack on VR support for the Oculus Rift and PS VR. Paying big money for leftovers doesn’t sound like my kind of fun and may cause VR to feel like a gimmick, instead of something that has potential to open up new doors for gaming.
How will VR Improve my Gaming Experience
This is a huge problem for me, how will gaming using VR make my experience that much better than traditional gaming? Will it really be that much more immersive? And is that worth the price tag alone? Because other than that, how else will it improve my gaming sessions? I won’t be able to play for 5 hours straight using VR because of all the side effects, like dizziness and nausea, gone are late night gaming sessions when you need to be a little more quiet and considerate to others. VR seems like it’s more of an accessory that will slightly enhance your experience in certain situations, but that accessory shouldn’t cost more than the actual device you need to use it on.
In short, my major concerns with the future of gaming and VR are simple: I don’t trust them to do a good job the first time around. I look at the Sony Move and Xbox Kinect and I see the failed promises, lack of content, and zero support. I don’t think VR will take off straight away, nor will the games at launch be worth the price tag for the VR system, it seems to me it will just be another fad that I won’t have many reasons to spend my hard earned money on. And gaming will go back to the old traditional way that it’s always been before until someone thinks of the next “ground breaking trend”.
Now on to Daniel.
Hey everyone, now begins the portion of this piece regarding my opinion on the VR phenomenon. I’ll be perfectly blunt right off the bat: I have very little interest in VR gaming. I’m a simple guy with simple tastes, just give me a system, a controller, and a decent t.v., and you’ll not hear a peep out of me for a few hours (unless I’m fighting a very frustrating boss). You wouldn’t even have to leave a dish of water for me, I’d be just fine without it. The gimmicky additions to video games like motion controls have never appealed to me, they’re simply unnecessary. I’ve played a couple of those Wii sports games and they were fun, momentary distractions, but I get enough exercise as it is, I don’t need to tire myself out while playing video games as well, I prefer to use that time to relax and unwind.
As for VR, it’s just another gimmick to me, nothing more. The prices for these upcoming VR devices are also WAY higher than I would ever be willing to pay for anything other than a video game system. Even when buying newer systems, I normally wait a year or so for price drops and/or improved, updated versions that have taken care of any flaws or kinks that came with the earlier versions. Also, as someone who has only used a headset a handful of times and prefers not to play games with one, I highly doubt I’d want to play games with a visor clamped around my head that displays images directly in front of my retinas.
The health issues that could arise from repeated playing in those conditions quite frankly frighten me. Yes, yes, I know that even now plenty of people out there experience unfortunate side-effects like seizures and nausea just from watching a normal television from a respectable distance. Hell, even I experienced a bout of vertigo after a certain play session of Batman: Arkham City. However, it should be noted that I was playing the game in my room with no lights on from 9:30 P.M. to 4:00 A.M., so I actually consider myself lucky I didn’t go blind. Still, if I were to play a game with a VR headset for even half that amount of time, I shudder to think about what would happen to my vision or sense of balance once I unplug myself. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind experiencing a VR play session just out of sheer curiosity, but I have absolutely no intention of buying myself a PlayStation VR.
Having said all that, I don’t believe VR gaming is going to end up being just another passing fad that will fade away into oblivion alongside PS Move or Xbox Kinect. I truly believe that this is just the beginning of a new age of virtual reality gaming. While I wouldn’t be so confident to say that 2016 will be the year VR will take off like the Normandy going through a Mass Relay (when the hell are we getting a f@$&ing release date on the next Mass Effect, anyway?), I don’t think VR will die out by year’s end either. Despite how uncomfortable I believe wearing a VR headset will be and the high price range of the devices themselves, it’s still painfully obvious that an overwhelming number of gamers are really looking forward to the advent of VR gaming and will be diving right in as soon as it’s available.
While there will be plenty of gamers who simply won’t be able to afford an Oculus Rift or PlayStation VR right away, the number of gamers who have already pre-ordered these devices should make the investment worth it for the companies who made them. At this point, it’s all up to these companies behind these headsets to work with publishers/developers to make sure they provide worthwhile games that not only work well with VR, but also have solid controls and mechanics like the many traditional games we play right now. If the games that are specifically optimized to work with these VR devices have nothing to offer gamers other than pretty displays that react well to the movements of their heads, which is honestly very likely, then I could see the initial craze over VR waning by early 2017. But I still don’t believe that will be enough to outright kill the VR movement.
Let’s face it, the current generation of gaming has a smaller number of standout titles being released at a steady pace, at least compared to the PlayStation 2/Xbox/Gamecube era. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of games out there right now that I greatly enjoy and upcoming games that I’m looking forward to playing, in fact I’m unusually easy to please when it comes to gaming, so don’t you dare confuse me with those “elitist gamers” who say this generation of gaming outright sucks. But the recently increasing number of re-released previous gen games, remakes/reboots, and series of games that have continued to live on for far too long with rehashed sequels (I’m looking at you Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty) have made me realize that the world of video games needs something more to keep it going strong. I certainly wouldn’t want gaming to begin slowly dying out within the next five years, I seriously wouldn’t have much of anything left to entertain me without video games.
Releasing yet another generation of consoles and games that at this point could only have slightly superior graphics and gameplay mechanics to the current generation of games would not be enough. Something more is needed, and that very well may be VR. I feel VR will slowly but surely be improved upon as time goes on; there will no doubt be plenty of mistakes made along the way, namely a bunch of games being released that will look pretty but will also be huge, steaming piles of crap with regards to controls and gameplay. Still, I feel that VR will attract more people to gaming, even people who currently have no real interest in video games but still really want to try out one of these strange yet interesting looking contraptions.
I feel I should close this out by sharing one last opinion with all of you, assuming you’ve made it this far into the article. I don’t in any way, shape, or form want VR gaming to replace traditional gaming. Even if it does really catch on in the coming years, I don’t actually believe it will replace traditional gaming any time soon, and if it eventually does, I’d prefer it not be for another 20 years or so when I’m older, frailer, and possibly less into gaming in general. I honestly don’t think VR can completely take over the gaming scene until we are able to play games by stepping into “holodecks” like in Star Trek: The Next Generation or by directly and, God willing, voluntarily linking ourselves up to machines like in The Matrix (everyone else seems to be referencing Sword Art Online, which I don’t watch/read, so I’ll just go with The Matrix to break the chain). In fact, our very own Michael Fitzgerald wrote a very insightful article on just this very topic, and I agreed with basically everything he said. No matter how you look at it and whether you support it or not, very soon VR gaming at home will no longer be a dream, but a reality…and not just a virtual one.