From playing Candy Crush on your mobile devices to playing motion-driving games on consoles like the Nintendo Wii, video games are mainstream. Will Virtual Reality be the next great mainstream innovation?
Both video games and virtual reality have been around for quite some time. Video games, designed to be in every home or easily accessible via arcades, quickly became mainstream and has evolved a great deal since it’s early days in dark arcades or the two button controllers. Virtual reality, however, has remained elusive to mainstream audiences. Investors are banking on that changing very soon. Facebook, already a household name, acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion and looks to do for VR what Facebook did for social media but can Facebook make VR a household item–a mainstream go-to for entertainment?
The very first video game was created in October 1958 by physicist William Higinbotham. It was called Tennis for Two, practically the predecessor to the popular 70s game Pong. “There were computer video games in the 1960s, but computers were so rare and so large that they were strictly for academics.” With the computers becoming a household item, so too, were video games on those computers. Computers have always been the gateway to the popularity of video games due to accessibility.
As computers became smaller and more affordable, more games for those computers emerged and accessible via floppy disks. Then the advent of early gaming consoles such as Magnavox Odyssey and Atari allowed people to play video games via cartridges. But with new technological advancements came new games and greener graphic pastures. It was in the 1990s that video games truly solidified its place in mainstream society.
Why, then, with all of the technological advancement and very promising and exciting experience virtual reality offers, is VR not a household item yet? It’s simple. Until recent months, VR headsets were too expensive and not easily accessible. VR headsets also come in two categories: tethered, meaning connected to a PC or other device or mobile. At present, the least expensive tethered VR is the Playstation VR, sitting at $400. The Google Daydream View is a mobile VR headset. Mobile, in this sense, means inserting your mobile phone into the headset and attaching it to your head, using the phone as your display. Mobile VR headsets are inexpensive, compared to the tethered VR headsets.
With VR, you can see the world without leaving your home. You can immerse yourself in exotic environments and be at the center of the action of a video game. So why is VR still not commonplace like video game consoles? Variety writer, Todd Spangler makes a very valid point in that VR just is not something that is considered a “must-have”.
VR’s immersive, solitary confinement simply doesn’t square with how people consume entertainment at home. Never mind that you can’t interact in-person with another human being with a Google Daydream, Oculus VR or Vive headset strapped to your noggin…Then there’s the fact that VR requires a caffeinated level of engagement. You have no choice, locked in the cage of a VR headset, but to pay constant attention.
VR seems like something that would be fun to try, say if you go to an arcade or entertainment wonderland like Dave and Busters. But to invest in a VR headset? You’d have to be pretty dedicated to solitary entertainment without human interaction.