The entire concept of virtual reality is evolving literally by the day. The problem, when you’re in a fast-moving industry, is that old hardware turns obsolete in an instant. Right now the Rift and Vive are brand-new, bursting with potential. But when do we get the Rift 2? Or the Vive 2? And when we do get them (presumably two or three years from now), will new software still work on the old hardware?
Provided virtual reality lasts, I expect we’ll see things calm down in a few generations. Again, look at phones: The difference between iPhones or Samsung flagships year-over-year is paltry compared to, say, the leap between the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G. Assuming virtual reality follows the same pattern, we’ll eventually reach a point where the current model is “good enough” for practical purposes.
But at the moment you’re buying an expensive piece of hardware that may have an extremely short lifespan—not to mention those aforementioned first-gen kinks that need to be smoothed out. Heck, Oculus’ made-for-VR Touch controllers won’t even land before the latter half of the year.
4. The library of games
Recommending VR would also be a hell of a lot easier if there were more to do at the moment.
Which is not to say there’s nothing. There are plenty of games/demos/mini-game collections/experiences/experiments/whatever on both the Rift and Vive. If you obtain a headset, there is software you can use today.
But even on the Rift, where Oculus directly funded multiple games, I struggle to point to a single experience (or even a group of experiences) and say, “this is why you should buy into virtual reality right now”—no matter how much I love Job Simulator, Esper 2, AudioShield, and Tilt Brush.
VR as a platform has a ton of potential. We’re not there yet, though. Even after three years of Rift development, software still feels mostly like a highly polished collection of novelties. Think of the early days of the Wii and its motion controls. There are a lot of great ideas, lots you can tell hold promise, but if you’re looking for a reason to justify your VR purchase then...well, you’re probably going to wait for a bit.
My prediction: We’re a long way from seeing companies build dedicated games for VR with the same budgets they devote to Uncharted or Halo or whatever. Expect software support to be shaky for the foreseeable future—mostly arising from independent developers and hobbyists. That’s fine! But it’s simply not what most end users are looking for...
5. The cost of the hardware (again)
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