I did a talk at the Game Developers Conference this year in San Francisco, and my take away was, “they are going to force VR down our gullets, want it or not”
If you follow a gaming blog, tech news, or even walk pass a cell phone store, you know that Virtual Reality is coming here. Facebook, Google, Steam, HTC, and more are all betting you will buy into the hype and drop $500 so you can forget your world, and login to one of theirs. All of this will go nowhere and VR is going to crash and burn faster than the Microsoft Kinect and PlayStation Move. Allow me to explain.
VR has a few things stacked against it, the most important being that it runs counter to everything that we as a geek class want. Right now as I am writing this (on my PC) I have my phone, an iPad sitting on my desk. I have a session of Chrome with Twitter, my email, and a few other tabs open, and I am actively using all of them. I am multitasking, unless I am asleep, I am always multitasking. This is VR’s first mark against it. No one I know under the age of 30 wants to do JUST ONE THING. In order for me to be immersed into the world the content maker wants me to be in, I have to be willing to totally drop out of my own world. I have witnessed people checking their status on Facebook at a funeral… they could not drop out of their digital space for 30 minutes to say goodbye to Grame Grame, much less 4 to 8 hours roaming around Diamond City in Fallout 4.
I have an Oculus Rift Dev 2, it took less than 8 hours for me to be over it. For those of you at home with no access to a VR headset, let me put it to you this way. Imagine if you were playing a game right now, and you wanted to check something outside the game, be it Twitter, or to let your dog out, you had to first take off your left sneaker. In order to un-pause your game and start playing again, you must put it back on. This is the amount of work it takes to get out of the headset. Anytime you want to context switch out of the VR world you are in, you MUST take off the shoe.
The second reason I suspect VR is DOA, gamers are not asking for it.
This is one of the issue that the Kinect had, you had to be 100% focused on standing in your living room ready to jump and react. The promises of the Kinect were never delivered, and it is not that Microsoft didn’t try, they marketed Kinect to death, and when the XBOX One hit the market, they were going to force it on us by bundling it with the console. That lasted about 45 days, and all the sudden it was optional.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some usecases that I can see people really getting into, and none of them are gaming.
Want to tour the MoMA in NYC but not able to get to NYC? Boom VR. Want to know what it looks like at the top of the Effie Tower but can’t get to Paris? Boom VR. I would even say, want to watch the new VR Star Wars, sure… but are you going to shell out $500 for the privilege?