New Technology, Old Issue
After the delay of orders due to the shortage of components and angering winnable initial adopters, virtual reality company Oculus is facing another headache as it seeks to culturally and technologically create the immersive medium. Now, it is possible to play the titles designed to be used only in Oculus Rift system on totally different virtual reality headsets.
In less than four weeks after the launch of the $600 system on March 28, amateur coders learned how to unlock the Lucky Tale, a cartoony platform game, and Oculus Dreamdeck, a virtual reality vignette collection for the Vive which is a virtual reality operating system that costs $800 and released on April 5 by the smartphone making company HTC and a gaming company Valve that operates the online marketplace Steam.
And in the latest week, extra content has been added: “only on Oculus.”
For now, the reverse is not a problem for Valve and HTC, whose online hub is headset agnostic, means that the content purchased from the Steam can be used for the Rift and Vive. However, the titles from the Home online store of Oculus are designed to work only with the Rift system, although neither HTC nor Oculus limit the developers from selling the content elsewhere for the other devices.
Kjartan Piere Emilsson, the CEO and co-founder of Solfar studios that crafted the Everest VR simulator said, “We’re focused on the Vive right now because of the ability to create room-scale experiences, but we’re planning to release on every platform available. In these early days, we think it’s important for ‘Everest VR’ to be experienced by as many people as possible.”
For decades, mostly the video games have been limited to the consoles, which are more difficult to crack than the PCs such as gamers can only hop into the Super Mario Bros installment on the systems developed by Nintendo while the Uncharted series is exclusively on the PlayStation machines. For the gamers using Xbox, the have the Halo franchise for themselves.
It is an ongoing battle called “the console wars.”
Rather than both the Vive and Rift that require high-powered PCs to operate and provide the similar windows into the 360-degree virtual worlds. Currently, they have distinct techniques for virtual reality. The wand-shaped controllers and sensors of Vive provide virtual reality across a room while Rift only works in the seated mode with a traditional handheld gamepad until the Oculus release its hand controllers for Rift by the end of this year.
Sony will go into the marketplace this October with the PlayStation VR. The difference between them? Unlike the Vive and Rift, PlayStation VR will cost only $400 and only works in collaboration with a PlayStation 4 console. It will also come with may more interesting titles, including the robot battle game RIGS: Mechanized Combat League and virtual reality rendition of Star Wars: Battlefront.
Shawn Layden, the president of Sony Interactive Entertainment America said, “We think content is king. We have six months not only to educate consumers about VR but also make sure we have a robust line-up when we launch in October. I think we’ll have a nice, healthy line-up when we bring PS VR to market. It’s so important to have all the software there.”
By the end of 2016, all the big three virtual reality systems are expected to essentially feature the same functions: a headset with a pair of controllers capable of mimicking the hands according to the conditions in the virtual world. As each headset developer is operating its own marketplace for the virtual reality titles and experiences, it is possible that the consumers of virtual reality will see the dawn of “the VR wars,” depending on how the HTC, Sony, and Oculus grab the content solely.
Chris Curran, the chief technologist at Pricewaterhouse Coopers said, “Are they selling razors or razorblades? I think moving forward this is going to be much more about the platform and the marketplace for content than it is about the headset. It’s not unlike smartphone market. At first, that was about the hardware. Now, it’s more about the overall experience.”
As with the motion-detecting Wii controllers or touchscreen Wii U Gamepad of Nintendo, it is possible the next iteration of virtual reality systems could mean that the developers will need to specially build the content for those other input devices. From the virtual reality treadmills to the virtual reality gloves, many peripheral aficionados have already developed prototypes that could make the virtual reality medium feel better and real.
Jason Rubin, head of the worldwide studios at Oculus said, “There are so many opportunities to layer onto the headset and hand-tracked controllers. This is the most likely point for us to be close together. It might be beyond any question that everything is exclusive going forward because developers may be building for devices that aren’t even mirrored by other platforms.”
For now, they are working to try to get goggles on the faces of customers.