2016 could make or break Virtual Reality Gaming

Friday, Aug 26, 2016 12:40

The Dalí Museum in Saint Petersburg, Florida, is running a new exhibit, entitled “Dream of Dalí”. This exhibit draws on the concept of virtual reality, which refers to immersive multimedia. Visitors put on virtual reality devices and are drawn inside a Dalí painting.

The head-mounted, somewhat obscure-looking, devices are the most recognisable features of virtual reality. Often referred to as virtual reality glasses or headsets, these devices allow players to block out their surroundings and present visuals directly to players. The kind of smile this puts on art lovers faces seems not to be replicable in the gaming world, where the uptake of virtual reality is increasing at a sluggish speed.

This development, despite the great potential virtual reality gaming, holds for the industry, can be explained by examining some of the developments surrounding the virtual reality technology.

The Virtual Boy was developed by Nintendo, and released in 1995 at a price of $180. A year later, the Virtual Boy was discontinued due to low sales figures. At that time, the technology to support the device was not available. By today's standards, screens were of low resolution, and the performance was not high enough to ensure images would load quick enough.

Almost 20 years later, several virtual reality devices have entered the market. Today, the technology to support virtual reality gaming is given via smartphones, high-quality consoles and smart TVs. Devices designed to capture movements, such as Microsoft Kinect, or Nintendo Wii, have become popular. Despite this trend, virtual reality games continue to make up for a minority of all games released on mobile or desktop devices, as well as on consoles.

For this coming year, the question arises whether virtual reality glasses can help further virtual reality gaming. Several companies have developed sophisticated virtual reality headsets for the mass-market. Oculus Rift is one of the most highly anticipated virtual reality devices. It plugs into USB and DVI ports, tracking head movements to render 3-D imagery. Several games, including The Witness and Bullet Train, have been developed for the device, which is expected to ship in March.

The device is priced at a relatively high $599. This may not have a positive impact on sales figures, and subsequently the virtual reality gaming industry. In 2016, Sony will start selling the PlayStation VR. Sony will profit from interest, stemming from Play Station 4 owners. Yet, if the rumours of a $600 price tag are confirmed, Sony is likely to see similarly low sale figures, as are anticipated for the Oculus Rift.

With these developments in mind, virtual reality gaming should take a page from mobile gaming's books and should support the development of low-cost virtual reality devices first.