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Who will make Virtual Reality Work, PC or Console?

Virtual Reality seems to have hit somewhat of a slump for now. While the PlayStation VR appears to have boosted interest in the technology somewhat, many are still sceptical. Phil Spencer of Microsoft has said that Scorpio will only support VR when there are full experiences. Nintendo has been cagey at best when discussing support. We are still very much in the early stages of the technology, but something needs to change. Who will be the one that makes Virtual Reality stand out? Will it be the PC headsets that promise a far superior experience? Can consoles win out with the lower price point and simpler install process?

The case for PC VR

Image courtesy: PCworld.com
Image courtesy: PCworld.com

PC VR headsets had the benefit of being the first to the market; that cannot be overstated. Oculus have had years to practice and perfect their headset, and the backing of Facebook helps. Meanwhile, HTC’s Vive has the backing Valve, who’s loyal PC support has helped especially with winning over early adopters. The technology behind the two big PC headsets is also a major component. Room-scale positioning and the tracking technologies of both headsets are much better than what the PlayStation VR headset can offer.

Image courtesy: Razer
Image courtesy: Razer

However, it doesn’t help that both headsets are still extremely expensive, even if HTC is planning on releasing a more affordable version of the Vive. Still, the outlay needed to pay for not just the headset, but for a PC to power, the thing would dissuade many from investing. Hardcore gamers would, of course, take the plunge, but market trends for games have shown that they are no longer the target audience for many developers, especially in South-East Asia.

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Then there is a matter of controversies, of which there have been more than just a few. Palmer Luckey’s association with the Alt-Right has lead to several developers withdrawing support for the Oculus Rift. Even if you do separate the man from the company, there are plenty of other controversies to take into account. The issue of exclusives, the bad taste Facebook leaves in many mouths is more than enough to deter some. It’s a messy affair that is unlikely to have any quick resolution.

Image courtesy: The Verge
Image courtesy: The Verge

The light at the end of the tunnel for PC-based VR could be in the arrival of other headsets. Razer’s open-source approach to their headset might win out for those who are already interested in the modular nature of PCs. However, while the headset is cheaper, it’s still more expensive than the PSVR. Another option then is Microsoft’s recently announced VR headset, which is the most affordable option and has the least setup needed from all the headsets. Without any indication of how well it works, however, there is no guarantee that it will be any good.

The case for Console VR

Image courtesy: Sony
Image courtesy: Sony

It’s cheap, its relatively easy to set up and already has a massive fanbase. That is the biggest selling point of the PlayStation VR. While not having the same capabilities as its PC counterparts, the headset is lots of fun to use. Experiences, while short, have gained a lot of positive responses from many users at demonstrations across the world. Even better is the direct endorsement of CCP, the developers behind EVE: Online. Sony seems to have struck gold at the very least in the first month of selling their headset.

Image courtesy: Gamespot
Image courtesy: Gamespot

However, at this current stage, ony is the only one selling a headset for their Console. Microsoft is making their own headsets with their hardware partners, but they’re sticking with the PC market for now, and have even hinted that they are in no rush to make a headset for their console. Likewise Nintendo has been cautious about directly supporting VR. This might be because of the mixed responses to the last time consoles made a big leap towards a technology with motion gaming, but for now only Sony has done anything visible with the technology. That is a significant portion of console players who do not have access to Virtual Reality.

Who is more likely to ‘win’?

Image courtesy: PC world
Image courtesy: PC world

In terms of hardware format wars, this is an interesting one. Unlike previous versions, such as HD DVD and Blurary, or Video and Betamax, there is no clear way of deciding. It’s not a simple comparions, and it’s very likely that both will succeed or both fail. It’s not like the porn industry is playing a deciding factor this time round after all. However, one of these will be the one to popularise VR to the wider audience. In this case console are more likely simply because they are cheaper and go along well with the plug-in-and-play concept that the consoles provide.

In any case, Virtual Reality is unlikely to disappear overnight, but something needs to happen to make it something everyone wants. Right now too many see it as a gimmick, something to try once or twice but nothing to sink money into.

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