Geek Out: Is VR the Future?

So lately I’ve been hearing a lot about Virtual Reality (VR) for video games. Apparently its supposed to be the future of video games. I’m not buying it, in fact I’m selling it.

I’ll be honest, I’m interested in what VR can bring to the video game industry. I think for some games it’ll be a great experience, but history suggests that VR will end up being another fad. Companies are putting millions of dollars behind VR and if it fails it could be quite a blow to companies like Facebook, who brought Oculus for 2 billion. Anyway lets go take a look at the previous “next big” things that failed in to do anything in the gaming industry.

For the sake of not writing a whole novel, I’ll limit the experiences that I will go in depth on, but please if you have the time then Google The Sega Activator, The Powerglove, and Nintendo’s vitality sensor.

First on this list will be the Virtual Boy by Nintendo. The Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s first attempt at 3D gaming. Nintendo was ahead of the curve with the Virtual Boy. 3D itself wouldn’t become big until 2009, so Nintendo was about 14 years too early. The Virtual Boy was supposed to be revolutionary, but instead it gave people headaches and hurt consumers eyes with its ugly red tinted graphics. The Virtual Boy ended up being a major flop for the company, but hey at least they perfected 3D gaming with the 3DS, even though most people play games on the handheld with the 3D turned off.

3D pops up again in the number 2 spot, this time however its Sony that’s behind the failure. Unlike Nintendo though, Sony was at least trying something at the right time. With the PS3 Sony began to push 3D gaming as well as the system’s ability to play 3D Blu-Ray movies. Unfortunately Sony didn’t realize that 3D would fade as quickly as it came. Sony truly believed that 3D gaming would take off, so much in fact that the company released their on Playstation branded 3D TV. I believe that this hurt Sony financially. They introduced the TV during their E3 press conference and I remember being pretty excited about it. However after looking at the specs on the TV and its decent, but not great price tag I realized that this wasn’t for me. A friend of mine brought one though, but he would buy anything so that doesn’t say much. At the end of the day, the TV received a major price cut after it failed to sell. I remember seeing one selling for just over $100, which is well shy of its original selling price.

Next we have Nintendo. Again. See Nintendo prides itself on being an innovator and for the most part they are. With the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo changed the industry. Its motion controls were refreshing and it helped the company rebound after the GameCube failed to live up to its potential. For Nintendo the introduction of motion control helped them tremendously. So Sony and Microsoft tried to copy Nintendo’s success to varying results. Sony’s Playstation Move came and it went, very quickly. I remember that weird E3 conference where they spent about 1/3 of their presentation on WonderBook. Anyone remember that? No I didn’t think you would. The company still makes Playstation Move controllers and I feel like Sony may just reintroduce it again in the future. I’m predicting that Media Molecule will try something with it. To state the obvious though, PS Move was a failure. A big one too.

Microsoft had a bit more success with their motion controlled accessory, Kinect than Sony did with the Move, but not to the extent they wanted. The Kinect was different than the other two as it didn’t need a controller. It was all centered on the gamer’s body and while that set it apart it also hindered it. The Kinect needed a decent amount of space in order for it to be used for quite a bit of its games. Normal living rooms weren’t as spacious, so consumers had to move their furniture around in order to play games like Just Dance or Dance Central. Eventually the Kinect feel out of favor with developers and consumers during the Xbox 360’s time. Instead of giving up though Microsoft, made a new Kinect for their Xbox One, but that seems to have followed in the former’s path. The new Kinect took a portion of the Xbox One’s memory which limited developers, but Microsoft has since made it so that the memory can be accessed by developers.That made the Kinect useless for whatever game used the allotted memory. This reversal has even led to the company releasing Xbox One’s without the Kinect accessory thus lower the price of the system by a whole $100.

So there are my examples of how new ideas tend to fail in the video game industry. Not every idea has failed mind you, but the ones that are often seen as groundbreaking and the future of the industry are often times nothing more than a fad. Maybe I’ll be wrong though and VR will buck the trend. I’d, however, put my money on the standard of a controller and TV reigning supreme in the years to come.


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