Is VR Gaming Set to Become the Next Big Technology Flop?

At what point will companies stop investing in VR’s future?

Google Glass. The Apple Watch. 3D TVs. All were hyped to such a degree that they ultimately fell into the abyss of disappointing technology. Now the question seems to be thus: are we about to see virtual reality gaming follow them?

When virtual reality first stepped into, well, reality, it generated one of the biggest buzzes for new gaming technology in many years. We’ve had Samsung VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and a plethora of other different products, and it really did seem that, after an initial expensive period, VR could become a new chapter in the history of gaming.

Unfortunately, now it looks like that chapter could have a very bad ending, one that was predicted by a minority in its early days. But why is this the case?

First of all, let’s deal with the most obvious thing: price. It really is as simple as saying that VR headsets and setups are extraordinarily expensive, even more so than regular consoles. For the top brands, the prices have been in excess of £400 for most of the lifespan, and many deem this as simply too much. But if people make exceptions for expensive new consoles and gaming PCs, why not VR?

“VR simply isn’t attracting top developers and publishers, and, as such, the quality of content available has dropped.”

Well, the answer lies in entertainment quality. VR has struggled immensely to produce any gaming content that people want to actually play. Rather ironically, the VR system is creatively limited in what it can do: whilst some games can be reproduced to suit the system, such as Skyrim or Resident Evil 7, there are much more that simply cannot be used. This, therefore, means that you’re restricted to the very small pool of games designed specifically for VR, and let’s not hide the true reality here: most of them are poor quality, gimmick games that might last a week before people grow bored of them. VR simply isn’t attracting top developers and publishers, and, as such, the quality of content available has dropped.

As well as this, let’s not forget that, despite the initial high volume of preorder sales for each of the major VR products, the sales since then have been poor. It seems to have found an, unfortunately, too specific niche, one that fails to pull in the everyday gamers. And if sales drop and the money begins to falter, it’s only a matter of time before the big companies (Facebook, Valve, Sony, Samsung, etc.) cut loose altogether. VR is big, but it currently doesn’t have the overwhelming public support needed to save it.

But, as well as this, there’s also the many practical issues involved. Most VR setups require a lot of space, and no doubt this has drawn enough doubts from people with families, pets and small homes. It’s one thing to plug a console into a TV and kick back on the couch, but it’s an entirely different monster to clear a large open area for virtual interaction. Then there’s the medical problem of motion sickness that prevents many types of games from being played; variable framerate and technical deficiencies can produce ugly responses in the brain, and this is enough to put many people off. It captures one of the biggest flaws with the whole concept of VR: even by watching it online, you can never know how it’s going to affect you until you’ve tried it yourself. People simply aren’t willing to give it a chance, and this means sales figures drop even further.

Finally, and importantly despite not being the biggest issue, VR would be virtually impossible to incorporate into the mass world of e-gaming and online viewing. How exactly can big crowds participate in enjoying someone running around with an odd headset on? There’s no anticipation that this could change, and if there’s no anticipation then there’s no investment, and no investment means even bigger sales drops.

I realize this has been a rather bleak outlook on VR, but it really is the truth. The entire system is struggling, despite what the leading companies might claim. The concept had a lot of hype early on, but as soon as people realized the issues it had, it began a steady decline, one that has only grown worse since. I hope that VR can dust itself down and get back on its feet, but, at the same time, I’m also very sceptical of how it can achieve this. If it can prove me wrong, then fantastic. But until then, I’ll stick to my controller and keyboard.

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