VR… is no longer virtual

Last week saw Sony announce on their blog that their new PlayStation VR headset will land in October of this year.

This is what cliché lovers could call a ‘game changer’. Up until now, content creators have been troubled by the need for specialist equipment to get the message across using VR. Whilst YouTube and Facebook have recently started supporting AR videos, it has serious limitations and to me, always felt like a half-way house.

True VR though? Sure it can work in an experiential installation but the numbers of people it will hit will be tiny. Even Mr Zuckerberg’s ambition seems woolly – what’s it got to do with social? Down that avenue lies the Google Glass outcome.

How can VR reach the mass market?

What we need is one in every house with a purpose: and guess what? Videogames has a purpose and already leads the way in VR. The company Facebook bought – Occulus Rift – started with a game demo, so getting it right in games will allow it to hit a sizable audience. 

Yes there are other VR headsets out there, but it needs major players with big pockets going head-to-head to drive the market forward. Sony’s product will launch this year and rumour has it that Microsoft may pair up with Occulus. Google cannot be far behind now: these are companies that are using videogames and apps to make a serious play for the living room, replacing set-top boxes from traditional manufacturers. 

I’m sure take-up will be slow initially, the price for Sony’s is likely to be $399 in the US – not too far away from Occulus, but as with all new technology, the price drops quickly. Look at it this way: the current generation of video games consoles, PS4 and Xbox One, have sold faster than their predecessors despite so-called competition from phones and tablets, and they have gained more momentum as their prices crash. And you want mass market? According to VGchartz, worldwide sales for their predecessors, PS3 and Xbox 360 top 80 million apiece.

VR for real at last?

It’s reasonable to assume that a game-changing technology such as VR, which was rumoured to be the next big thing as far back as the 80s, will be a hit when we get it right. And, of course, nothing is guaranteed until the generously proportioned, non-gender specific entertainer sings: tech is littered with damp squibs – but finally VR is starting to look, well – like a reality.