Everyone has heard the term ‘virtual reality’, but for those who are not particularly tech-minded it essentially means a computer-created simulation of reality that you can interact with in an immersive way. For a long time, this was expensive to develop, which restricted it to highly expensive games or big budget movies, but now the costs are falling and it is moving into the mainstream.
The main area that it is moving into is the gaming industry, via VR games for mobile and VR specific console games. At the moment, the former is the more affordable for many people, as VR mobile headsets like Google Cardboard (pictured above) are cheaper than console devices like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
This means that Google Cardboard is taking VR into the mainstream, with sales of over 5 million already, but both the mobile and console versions essentially work the same way – the headsets plug into the devices to enable you to experience virtual reality games scenarios.
The console headsets HTC Vive (pictured above) and Oculus Rift remain a little more niche, but strong games have now been launched for both that could change that. Among the good games for the Vive are The Lab and action game Raw Data. Oculus Rift also has strong titles available, including adventure epic Feral Rites and Edge of Nowhere.
Just now, the majority of these are device-exclusive, but the expectation is that many will go cross-platform in the future – which would help VR go mainstream. However, flaws with each of the major controllers have held them back so far – with Oculus Rift failing to provide the touch controllers needed to play many of its games, while HTC Vive has not yet succeeded in capturing the attentions of a large gaming audience.
It is these issues with the headsets that are primarily preventing virtual reality from truly becoming mainstream, but the companies behind them are working hard to change that. Some have cited the previous failures of VR to launch, most notably the Virtual Boy device launched by Nintendo back in the 1990s that bombed, but the technology has moved forward enormously since then – and gamers are more ready.
There are forms of gaming that could clearly be enhanced by VR – for example casino games such as poker where VR could immerse you in the glitz and glamour of top Las Vegas casinos to you within your own home. That ability to make you feel like you are actually inside the world of the game you are playing is something few gamers seem likely to resist once the technical glitches have been resolved and the headsets are affordable for all.
The rapid sales of mobile VR headsets like Google Cardboard demonstrate there is an interest in the technology while future ideas such as nanotechnology – which would allow complete entry into digitally created worlds – make VR unstoppable.
Although it may be stalling at the moment, in terms of popularity and sales, VR is going to play a big role in gaming before very long.