Virtual Reality (VR) has been around since the 1970s when it was put to use displaying 3D models of a city by technicians at MIT. It was not until 1991 that the concept was used for consumer-based experiences. Sega released the Sega VR headset for the Mega Drive. Many attempts and false starts later, there are two big players in the VR world. Microsoft has Oculus and its Rift headset, which was recently purchased in 2014 by Facebook, and Sony has the Morpheus.
The E3 conference last week seemed to bring out just as many sceptics as there are supporters. However, the advances of VR and its potential is undoubtedly present. Wired reported that virtual and augmented reality will be a $4 billion industry by 2018. CCS Insights predicts that the world’s biggest tech companies including Sony, Facebook, HTC and Microsoft will sell some 20 million devices in the next decade.
Despite HTC also having its own VR headset coming in the form of the Vive, it was not showcased at this year’s E3. The Rift unveiled four games on their CV1 headset—Lucky’s Tale, Edge of Nowhere, Eve Valkyrie and Chronos—showing AAA-quality levels of polish and graphical fidelity good enough to get any gamer salivating. Consumers had a chance to see what games Project Morpheus will offer at E3. Sony had nearly 20 virtual reality games playable at its E3 booth in Los Angeles including Sony London Studio’s London Heist, Rebellion’sBattlezone, Guerrilla Cambridge’s Rigs, Kokoromi’s Super Hyper Cube, Frame Interactive’s Headmaster, and CCP Games’ EVE Valkryie.
John Koller, VP of marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America, said at this year’s E3 that the big advantage Sony has is that the PS4 can process VR without requiring additional purchases by the consumer. This may give Sony Morpheus an edge over PC-based VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. According to Piper Jaffray analyst, Gene Munster, only 20 per cent of all PCs on the market currently have the specs to run a VR headset. “Morpheus is the best place to play for gamers,” Koller says, “We think games will play a significant role, if not a majority role, but there is going to be opportunity for non-game applications to play as well.”
However, veteran game designer, Warren Spector is not so hopeful for VR. In an interview with gamesindustry.biz, he spoke about the conference at great length, but did take the time to give his opinion on VR: “I’ve been pretty consistent in my belief that VR is a fad. I think it will generate some interest among the hard-core gamers. For entertainment? I’m just not seeing it.”
Despite his scepticism, people seem to be responding to VR as a legitimate form of gaming, but it will, of course, come down to patience and time to see whether or not headsets such as Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus will be a success.
— Ian Dunne, Correspondent (Tech)
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