Is VR gaming at a turning point?

Christian Scheibel, PR Manager at Shuttle, looks at whether the time has come for VR to fully step out of its niche and attract a broader audience.

Looking back on the last decade, we’ve seen esports evolving even more and the PC gaming market growing year on year. Naturally, and depending on a game itself, this called for other and more innovative technology for gamers to actually dive into a game and control it, rather than just using traditional gear like monitors, keyboards, mice and controllers. In 2020, the following four makers of VR gaming hardware are the most relevant players in the market: Valve (Valve Index), Oculus (Rift), HTC/Valve (Vive), Sony (Playstation VR) and Samsung (Gear).

In 2010 when the first prototype of the Oculus Rift was shown, VR was in its infancy and couldn’t do much more than some rotational tracking and 90 degree-viewing. Things looked different when the Rift was first shown to a wide audience at the E3 games trade fair in 2012. Back then, Oculus set the real first landmark in VR gaming. Other makers were soon to follow and rolled out gear of their own adapting existing technology. Shortly after Valve and HTC came out with the Vive headset in 2016, Sony released Playstation VR for the PS4 generation of consoles in just the same year. 2019 saw the releases of the high-end Valve Index and the Oculus Rift S.

While the technology itself and opportunities are amazing, keep in mind you will always need a game that actually supports VR. For example, if you are an ardent football fan, you might have a difficult time finding the game for you, as the number of games backed by VR is still little. The main genre of games that VR targets obviously is 3D shooters and RPGs like, for example, Fallout and The Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim. The latter had its VR version introduced across different platforms in 2018. If you have tried this or another game with VR support once, the most significant flaw of VR becomes obvious – health dangers.

As VR affects the eye-brain connection, a good deal of users complain of eye strain, headaches and, in some cases, even nausea to name a few. Motion sickness is a matter, too. Imagine, you are just on the most thrilling of missions or delving into Skyrim’s deepest dungeons and you need to pause the game, because it literally gives you a headache. So, right after a 2-hour playtime you will have to call it a day? Sorry, not for me. I just want to spend more time in these open-world games.

Besides a powerful gaming PC that forms the basis of your VR experience, consumer prices from £400 upwards to over £1,000 for the premium gear of Valve will top up the bill. The additional hardware required doesn’t come exactly cheap which means, from the sheer costs alone. As such, VR is not for everyone.

To put things bluntly, whether Alyx, as the latest and long-awaited incarnation of the Half-Life franchise, can be the actual game changer remains to be seen, but it’s sure to help give VR a significant boost. With the next-gen consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X arriving (hopefully still) this year, it will be interesting to see to what extent Sony and Microsoft are pursuing the present VR technology. Playstation VR is said to be compatible with the PS5. Finally, as I see it, VR gaming definitely has something going for itself, but it is yet to fully take off. Coronavirus aside, I think there is a good chance for sales of VR gear to go up, as the fanbase of mentioned games is still huge. At the end of the day, time and sure games will tell whether VR is able to fully step out of its niche and attract a broader audience in a prospering gaming market across all platforms.

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