Will the Oculus Rift go mainstream?

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For a couple of years now gamers have been getting increasingly excited about the Oculus Rift – which could revolutionise games, by making them more immersive than ever.

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Essentially, it’s the closest yet we’ve come to the fabled “virtual reality headset” with the Rift sporting dual screens that sit right in front of your eyes, and headphones for sound – plus a whole bunch of sensors to ensure that your head is being tracked (so when you move your head, you look around in the game).

It isn’t a tinpot hobbyist idea either. The company building it was founded in 2012 and managed to raise $2.4m on Kickstarter… and then went on to raise another $91m from other investors. The company have Doom and Quake creator John Carmack on board – and the company has already won the plaudits of the likes of Gabe Newell from Valve, and Mincraft creator Notch. So in short: the Oculus Rift is going to be a BIG DEAL.

Whilst it is still only in development (the plan is to release either late 2014 or early 2015) – with only a handful of lucky developers getting their hands on one so far – it is slowly edging towards a commercial release and people are beginning to ask the question: could it go mainstream?

Personally, I’m sceptical of its wide appeal. Do we really want a future where we sit on our sofas, isolated from the world around us, looking like Daft Punk?

I don’t know about you, but when I play games, I like to play whilst lounging on my sofa, leaning to one side, communicating with my girlfriend, who (as you might expect) I enjoy spending time with – rather than with my head locked away in some ultra immersive gaming world with bullets whistling past my head and a relentless visual assault on my eyes. There’s a reason I haven’t decorated my lounge with a “Normandy Landings” theme.

I suspect other gamers may think the same. We only have to look at the mixed success of motion controls to let history be our guide. Whilst we all enthusiastically bought a Nintendo Wii and maybe even a Kinect, the appeal of the motion controls wore off rather quickly after we remembered that after a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is have the TV bark at you instructions to jump about. Even Microsoft have admitted that full motion controls are essentially for party games – with the Xbox One’s use of motion and gestures employed much more subtly.

But all this said – I still hope the Rift will be wildly successful. I’m dying to have a go myself on one – and I’ve no doubt that there will be a reliable mass of super hardcore gamers who use the headset every session. But I’d also like to remain in the real world too.

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments. And do feel free to tell me how wrong when we’re chatting together in something resembling The Matrix in a few years time.

James O’Malley

14 comments

  • People forget that you can view a THEATRE with the Oculus Rift. (Google “VR Cinema”)

    Why buy a $2,000 70′ screen TV when you can buy a ~$300-$500 Oculus Rift and have a screen up to theatre size to watch movies or play games on?

  • People forget that you can view a THEATRE with the Oculus Rift. (Google “VR Cinema”)

    Why buy a $2,000 70' screen TV when you can buy a ~$300-$500 Oculus Rift and have a screen up to theatre size to watch movies or play games on?

  • if 50 000+ sold Dev Kits means a “handful” then I understand.

    It’s one screen with image split for each eye. Yes, a technicality 😉

    Playing with (girl)friend – maybe it would be interesting to play with an observer having his own Rift. No to mention coop etc. But yes, it’s for intense play, not the casual “hardcore” 😉

    • “with only a handful of lucky developers getting their hands on one so far”

      Yeah they are definitely wrong on that point – even though it is a developers version anyone can buy one. I’m on the verge of ordering one myself although the shipping fees/taxes to the uk are a bit of a pain.

  • if 50 000+ sold Dev Kits means a “handful” then I understand.

    It's one screen with image split for each eye. Yes, a technicality 😉

    Playing with (girl)friend – maybe it would be interesting to play with an observer having his own Rift. No to mention coop etc. But yes, it's for intense play, not the casual “hardcore” 😉

    • “with only a handful of lucky developers getting their hands on one so far”

      Yeah they are definitely wrong on that point – even though it is a developers version anyone can buy one. I'm on the verge of ordering one myself although the shipping fees/taxes to the uk are a bit of a pain.

  • I just flat out disagree with your thoughts on VR not going mainstream. I think VR and AR will be the biggest inventions since the Internet. Wearable tech and Bio-tech is the way of the future. Although I think VR, AR may take five to eight years to pick up steam. Everyone didn’t get the Internet overnight either. By the fourth or fith generation of the Rift and Google Glass all the problems will be ironed out, and they’ll be something we feel like we couldn’t live without, like smartphones, that I happen to be speaking this into.

  • “For a couple of years now” Hmm well Kickstarter was launched end of 2012 so saying it’s being “a couple of years” is lolish

  • I think the Rift is shaping up to be a major, game-changing (if you’ll pardon the pun) device, but to suggest it will completely take over the industry can only be hyperbole.

    If we’ve learnt anything from the last decade’s introduction of introduction of mobile games and motion-controlled games, it’s that there is space in the market for all of these forms to co-exist. Naturally – provided the Rift takes off as many gamers like myself hope – there will be a period where seemingly every game tries to support it. We’ll see a lot of innovation, and a lot of cloning. After that, I think it will become just another one of the many ways that are available to experience games, and that’s no bad thing.

  • I just flat out disagree with your thoughts on VR not going mainstream. I think VR and AR will be the biggest inventions since the Internet. Wearable tech and Bio-tech is the way of the future. Although I think VR, AR may take five to eight years to pick up steam. Everyone didn't get the Internet overnight either. By the fourth or fith generation of the Rift and Google Glass all the problems will be ironed out, and they'll be something we feel like we couldn't live without, like smartphones, that I happen to be speaking this into.

  • “For a couple of years now” Hmm well Kickstarter was launched end of 2012 so saying it's being “a couple of years” is lolish

  • I think the Rift is shaping up to be a major, game-changing (if you'll pardon the pun) device, but to suggest it will completely take over the industry can only be hyperbole.

    If we've learnt anything from the last decade's introduction of introduction of mobile games and motion-controlled games, it's that there is space in the market for all of these forms to co-exist. Naturally – provided the Rift takes off as many gamers like myself hope – there will be a period where seemingly every game tries to support it. We'll see a lot of innovation, and a lot of cloning. After that, I think it will become just another one of the many ways that are available to experience games, and that's no bad thing.

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