Why You Might Want To Still Hold Off On Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is spectacular, and will potentially revolutionize how we engage with entertainment in the way the radio, the television, and the smartphone each have in the past. But today, as you consider investing hundreds of dollars in one of these novelty headsets, there are some reasons why you should consider holding off. Following the smartphone analogy, virtual reality is, as of now, like the first iPhone, and it could be awhile before it feels as polished, inclusive, and comparably affordable as say, the iPhone 6s.
The resolution of Oculus Rift’s earliest prototypes was very low, so much so that its view of virtual reality appeared to be obstructed by a screen door. Both the commercial Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headset have made positive strides since then, but the visual fidelity of VR is still not yet close to standard HDTVs, let alone 4K displays. Even though the actual screens inside the headset are of very high-resolution, having your eyeballs within an inch from their surface allows your eyes to spot individual pixels. The limits of the resolution are more noticeable when watching video, which appears soft and blurry. Small text, like the folder names on your desktop and the content of text files, are nearly impossible to read. VR needs ultra-high-resolution screens and the appropriate computing power needed to drive it, neither of which come cheap in 2016.
Lack of Playable Games
The used game bins at GameStop are filled with the launch titles of games consoles of old. Launch games are usually learning exercises for developers, a chance to understand how to design for new hardware. In retrospect, launch games often feel undercooked due to non-familiarity of designers with the platform. The initial crop of VR launch games, while impressive enough to serve as technical demos and proof of concept, lack the depth and confidence of their competition from both indie studios and flush publishers. If you like shaggy and experimental video games, more often than not, works-in-progress, virtual reality platforms have plenty to offer. But for others who would rather not sink $600+ on demos and works-in-progress, there are only a few rock-solid games that warrant an investment in VR today — especially when a new, good non-VR game is seemingly released on PC each week for only a couple of bucks.
Shipments for both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive have been delayed, leaving many people who pre-ordered both hardware within days, if not hours, of availability stranded. Worse, Oculus Rift’s touch controls are not yet available and will only start shipping later in the year (if it’s not delayed). Whilst HTC Vive, which already has motion controls and a second camera that allows an entire room to become a walkable VR chamber, has a big advantage, it lacks the exclusive games that Oculus Rift has.
This is probably a nit-pick but, being effectively tethered to a $1,000+ computer, while you are effectively blinded and deafened to the outside world sounds like a crazy thing to ask of anyone. The wires must go away, as soon as possible. If the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive don’t find a way to make the connection to PC without the wires, more practical options, like Samsung’s GearVR will welcome newcomers — who can pay much less for a far more inviting and less physically limiting experience.
Newer, better headsets are probably coming soon
Given how very little we’ve heard about games currently in development for virtual reality, let alone how publishers plan to invest in it, along with the fact that game development takes many months at best, and years on average, we may not see meatier VR releases until 2017 or even 2018.
Over the next few years, both game developers and hardware designers will inevitably experiment and improve upon virtual reality at a rapid pace, and we’ll probably see the fruits of the progress over the next few years. In an interview with The Verge, Sony’s president of worldwide studios, Shuhei Yoshida, said this about the upgrade cycle: “In terms of tech, VR is just starting, consumer VR is just starting, and there are also areas where R&D is being done; the resolution gets better, the interface, all of these kinds of things. So even though we are approaching PSVR on PS4 like a console — meaning that anyone can buy it without any technical knowledge — because this field is so new, and advancements will be everywhere as we continue to work on R&D, I cannot say that the PSVR will have the same kind of cycle as a traditional console.”
Because of the delays mentioned above, orders made today for the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift are not likely to ship for months. If, however, you have a bottomless bank account or enjoy the looming shadow of debt, you could spend over a thousand dollars to order for a headset this week, in which case, refer to reasons one through five.