Virtual reality gaming is something that has been dreamt of for years. Popularly described in classic science-fiction novels, it seems like people have been waiting decades for this technology to finally come to fruition. What’s puzzling is that now it’s here, in a completely real and “tangible” way, and yet it has completely failed to take off. This poses the questions, what are the problems with VR and how can it gain traction in the gaming sphere?
VR in its Current State
While VR gaming has enormous potential and certainly is not going away anytime soon, it has some challenges and drawbacks to overcome in its present state. First off, the necessary hardware is not attractive in these early stages. Reminiscent of the first wave of cell phones, the huge VR headsets are clunky, heavy, and overall not something that appeals to consumers.
Then there are the health concerns around VR. Users have expressed everything from eye-strain, to dizziness and nausea after using their VR units for an extended period of time. One of the most prevalent side effects, however, and the one that will be the most challenging to overcome, is the fake-motion sensation. This is when your mind is telling your body it’s moving, but of course, your body knows it isn’t. With this being so common and widespread, it has been dubbed “virtual reality sickness” and can cause extreme disorientation and even psychological disorders. While there have been some proposed solutions, like motion enabled rooms, we’ve yet to reach a complete conclusion on this matter.
With these issues aside, the biggest problem that VR gaming faces right now is the lack of breakout titles to propel sales of the system or even justify the expensive price tag of the VR units. Headsets range from $600-$800 and the handheld controllers cost extra. Customers are not lining up at these prices. Most people look at VR as a novelty, not something they want to dive into immediately. So what will actually drive consumer adoption?
What VR Needs to Really Take Off
VR needs better games for the technology to truly find its market share. If the answer is so obvious, then why aren’t developers racing to grasp the opportunity that this market presents? To begin with, the easy answer is money. VR games are expensive to produce, and there isn’t a set blueprint on how to create a viral hit title. Indie studios are generally more willing to take the risk and create new and exciting games, but they don’t have the resources necessary. Major studios are staying away from VR for the time being because essentially, all games are an investment. If the outlook of turning a profit doesn’t look exceptionally high for these studios, then they will stay away from VR until the market is larger.
All these factors combined create a clear dilemma where no one is leading the charge in this market. If VR gaming is going to be successful, and without a doubt, it will, there need to be some innovative titles that are taking advantage of the new physics that VR is capable of. After years of mediocre titles, we are finally seeing major developers showing interest.
Half-Life: Alyx is the new game in the Half-Life series and the first major title to be released on a VR system. This title was praised for its use of the VR physics and the level of detail poured into every area. There was a lot of interaction with the environment, and it encouraged the players to explore the landscape. Players have said that they forget they are within a game at certain points. Already Alyx is poised to be one of the best games of the year, and this will surely be noticed by development studios. With VR showing us so much potential and possibility, we can’t help but wonder what other genres would make excellent VR games.
Sports games can easily gain popularity when combined with VR. Instead of using a controller, the player is using realistic body motions to shoot a basket, throw a baseball, or move around the defending football team. This transition to VR would presumably be easier and more straightforward than other types of games.
Fans of live sports would love the opportunity to have a first-person perspective experience in a VR game. Imagine if the Madden franchise decided to release a VR title. It could be a massive success. The newest edition in the Madden franchise, Madden 21, is set to release in late August. The cover features the Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was the MVP of the 2019 season. While the Ravens had an exceptionally good season last year, they currently sit at +700 in the NFL Super Bowl futures, showing that they are expected to be a serious contender for the championship this season. In the VR world, gamers could impersonate Ravens, but the technology could also easily become a type of training simulator for athletes.
RPG games have always been about immersion. Playing these games in a first-person perspective in full VR would be an incredibly rewarding experience. RPGs are known for their intricately detailed expansive worlds and this would naturally become more fleshed out in VR. A groundbreaking RPG title could really help usher in the next generation of gaming.
First Person Shooters
Of course, FPS games are some of the most successful in all of the video game world. With a huge player base ready to jump aboard, all VR needs is one hit FPS title to really take off. These games are known for the heart-pumping action that brings up the player’s adrenaline levels. With friends playing these shooters together online, it could become the most thrilling experience out of the entire video game market.
Horror games pose another interesting proposition for the VR world. As of now, the genre has really been stunted with a lack of truly terrifying games. Players are not excited by the same jump scares and eerie music anymore. The clear best way to revitalize this dead genre is by integrating it with VR. In this world, anything is possible and the level of detail that VR brings will naturally create environments that are captivating for players. Instead of running through levels feeling near invulnerable and without any sense of risk, players would take every step in fear and anticipation. Of all the different gaming genres out there, horror games have the most to gain by integrating VR technology.