How many gamers have $600 to spare on technology that might not even pan out? This thought ran through the minds of many as the Oculus Rift price tag was revealed. For those of you who don’t know, or need a refresher, Oculus Rift is a virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display. It includes a headset, sensor, remote, cables, Xbox One controller, EVE: Valkyrie, and Lucky’s Tale. “A large number of PC games are already compatible with the Oculus Rift VR headset. Games come in two categories of compatibility: Native, with Oculus support built in, and Available, with VR compatibility provided by adaptive or third-party solutions” (IGN.com). Oculus is not alone in its pursuit of virtual reality; Sony VR and Microsoft HoloLens are well on their way.
Sure, Oculus Rift—and other virtual reality tech—is great to own as a part of gaming history. But I predict this is something we will look back on as a failed experiment, rather than the catalyst for a whole new way to game.
Virtual Reality is exciting in its novelty and the potential we think it has. This is something I can’t deny. While I’m intrigued by what’s emerging, I never asked for it. And I think that’s the case for most gamers. The wealthy and the innovative aren’t meeting gamers’ demands with VR; they’re trying to stay a step ahead. Everyone wants to be on the cutting edge of gaming. Everyone wants to be the first to deliver the next big thing.
It is natural to dream of what the future will be like and those dreams appear again and again in artwork and pop culture. It has become a cyclical process: pop culture gave us a picture of the future (with flying cars, hover boards, holograms, and virtual reality) so we continue to put that into pop culture. This is why companies are so desperate to make this happen. VR is assumed to be the natural progression and, while it is cool, it’s far more niche than necessity.
Oculus Rift invites gamers to “step into their favorite game” but I’d rather stay behind my controller and in my chair (that’s right Wiimote and Xbox Kinect). I don’t want extra steps to let my friends and family see me gaming. Virtual reality is painted to look like a deeper level of immersion but, in gaming, it seems more cinematic than practical (which is why my 3DS has the 3D turned off).
Don’t get me wrong: there’s merit here. As a gamer, I know technological advancements will open doors for developers and change the gaming experience. I just can’t imagine many are ready, or willing, to step into the rift.
While Oculus Rift is reasonably priced (considering they already don’t make a profit by selling it at $600), it is not financially accessible and not particularly desirable to many consumers. It is fun option that is more suited for an arcade than one’s home. In that sense, the Oculus Rift is actually many years too late. And wouldn’t that have been the perfect story? VR working its way from your local arcade to your home… following in the footsteps of the first consoles. Instead, Oculus Rift may never find its way home on a scale large enough to matter.