You’ve probably read in the latest news from websites like Game Informer, where Oculus Rift will be launching at a very steep 599 USD this year, which for some is a rather large price point to try and enjoy. Let alone is this piece as expensive as it sounds, it also means a lot of PC gamers with low to medium end PCs will be looking at heft upgrade costs in order to enjoy VR titles. Many gamers may already be meeting these specs for those that are true diehard PC gamers. Why? They like graphics and power to go with those graphics. Plus, who wants to upgrade every few months just for a few more “hours” of enjoyment?
When looking at the cost of VR gaming, I can’t say that I’ve not been excited for this since it’s coming to consoles also through both Microsoft’s HoloLens, Sony’s PlayStation VR, HTC’s Vive and the well-renowned Oculus Rift announcements. But the question comes down to why. Why would someone want to spend a few hundred dollars to thousands for VR attachments that may or may not stay alive for long? While I was fortunate enough to go hands-on with Oculus Rift at QuakeCon 2015 thanks to Tigerdirect and a few other kind folks there, the reality of it is? It’s fun, it’s new, and it allows us to feel as if we are truly in the game or even creating a game. The question now is, how much will HTC, Sony, and Microsoft push down their prices to compete with Oculus’ steep 599 USD? That’s to be debated since Sony’s leak on Amazon, which pointed at a nasty 800 dollars, double that of the PlayStation 4 itself. If that’s the case? It’ll be crippling to the company as Oculus Rift will have already been outselling them for quite a bit at 200 dollars less before taxes applied.
But this article isn’t about cost effectiveness or even the competition between four companies, rather the question – are we ready for this technology? Is this to be the future of gaming? Let’s take a look at that in all reality.
Early Days of VR
When glimpsing at VR gaming, we know it has been around for quite sometime. We saw this happen with Virtuality, which released in 1991 to arcades. The device, at the time, costs companies up to 73,000 USD in order to put in each multi-pod Virtuality system. This system featured pods, as stated, exoskeleton gloves and headsets that were the first “immersive” headsets to allow gamers to go on their virtual reality experience. Following this transition SEGA joined in as well as a few other companies to bring VR a bit more to life. Even Nintendo attempted this in a few forms; Virtual Boy and Power Glove. These feats were among the first attempts to bring VR to the home-consumer, but failed miserably in its days. Now? The technology is here thanks to these pioneers and now we are about to experience them in their fully developed appearance.
It’s still questionable if VR is even ready for the home experience. Back then? It was used as a money maker for arcades and companies wanting to bring in a few crowds at the mall. Now it is heading to the family household.
It’ll Break the Bank
It’s hard to say VR is going to be cheap when looking at the Oculus Rift PC specs to even use the headset. The headset alone requires an NVIDIA GTX 970 or greater video card, for AMD users 290 or greater video card. For processors you’ll need Intel i5-4590 equivalent or better, 8GB+ RAM,Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output, 2x USB 3.0 ports, and Windows 7 SP1 or greater. For some? This has already been accomplished and easily done, but for those who haven’t? This just made things a bit more complicated due to most users not having 2x USB 3.0 ports – especially laptop gamers with those extreme high-end laptops. Now this could be different for those who’ve purchased their laptop within the last year or so. For the rest of us? The requirements are a bit of a doozy. This can easily meet up to a staggering 1,500 USD depending on the price-tag and hardware you are wanting. If you are looking to get there? Newegg is always a great choice thanks to their daily deals as well as their tendency to mark down items.
With another price-tag having fallen there’s speculation from Tech Insider, there’s a possible leak that the PlayStation VR may run you a very steep 800 USD, double the cost of a PlayStation 4, and one that may just deter many possible users away. If that’s the case? Oculus Rift may just seem like the better option since a computer that meets the minimum Oculus Rift requirements could be quite accessible for those who already own desktops and are looking to upgrade to a few compatible components. While both Microsoft and HTC have yet to announce their costs for their VR devices, we can only expect that they won’t be far behind the Oculus in price in order to keep the competitive market balanced out. The downside to all this? It’s expensive and will easily set your wallets on fire to try and meet the requirements or even meet the expected qualifications for these devices.
Health Risks are Questionable
Lets just say for a moment we didn’t know jack about eyestrain and the damage it can cause if you don’t take break from your games. Not many of us knew about Digital Eye Strain, which can cause the inability to focus on long range items, sever dry eyes, blurred vision, double vision, neck and or back pain, and even those irritable headaches. While this does happen from staring at computer screens, phones, and even, guess what, TV screens. The health risk for VR? We don’t know.
Considering you’ll be staring at LED or LCD screens at extremely close proximity to your eyes, we can only imagine this would make the problem worse. Especially for gamers over the age of 40 due to the strain the eyes will have trying to focus on objects both far and close. We can only assume that the need for breaks will be quite the requirement for those of you wanting to go on long-end sessions. This is a very rocky road users walk and we can only hope that some studies are done with health risks outside of the potential motion sickness.
What Games Will Release for VR
When looking at VR it’s going to be hard to comprehend games outside of first person views to be acceptable for this platform. The issue there is not everyone likes to play FPS titles or even in FPS at all for that matter. This will make VR a hard-sale for those who prefer over-the-shoulder titles. However, for fans of titles like Elite Dangerous, Allison Road, EVE: Valkyrie, and a few other titles? You’ll be busy for hours. There’s plenty to do there, but for those who are extreme fans of Call of Duty, Star Wars, Battlefield, and a few of the other big titles? This really isn’t going to be a big seller as those players binge the games in order to become the best of the best, and with the unstudied health risks? We can only assume there will be trouble here trying to make the sale on VR games.
The best bet? To wait and see if there are any major VR titles worth considering outside of the few that will be hitting the digital stores and shelves in the very near future. Though it’ll be regrettable to see if the platforms don’t lift off as early as they are launching. Given a few more years? The time would be right as big name developers would be able to prepare their games a bit more and offer a much more diverse library for fans to enjoy. It’ll definitely be hard to sale games like Gears of War, Tomb Raider, Bloodborne, Uncharted, and Gravity Rush in a VR enviroment using third person.
I can’t say that I’m not ready for VR. I really am, but with the health risks that are unknown, and even the questionable price tags? It’s a boat that I’m not ready to jump on and set sails with. While I think there is a chance for VR to hit the market and those that are enjoying it, and doing quite well doing so, there’s still a lot of if-and-or-but situations there. I can’t recommend for fans to place all their eggs in this basket till we see a bit more about it and how this will happen. With the current cost of gaming? I do see this being a hard market to sell to and if the Oculus Rift specs are anything we can expect out of HTC’s Thrive? This’ll be a market that makes or breaks these companies due to developmental and production costs.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.