Is VR Just Going to be Another Gimmick?

The hottest things you could literally not get your hands on in the ’90s were hover boards, face calling and VR. Although it was possible to get your hands on pseudo VR back in the 90s, it was at a great risk of your personal health and a total commercial failure. The Virtual Boy was the first attempt at VR back when the world was not ready for the technology needed in order to make it an success, but here we are yet again twenty years later. Is VR finally ready to be a success or will it be a total commercial failure as it once was?

The first biggest problem with Nintendo’s VR was that it was conceived during the a time when everyone was fascinated with VR. The technology wasn’t enough to generate immersive 3D worlds. As a result, the console sold horribly despite the significant price drops that Nintendo continuously lavished on those who had purchased the console for $180 dollars were treated to nothing but horrific side effects and Wario Land. We are seeing the idea of VR pop up once more in the 21st century with the Oculus Rift, Hololens and PlayStation VR, but are the side effects over and done with? Yes, the kinks of Virtual Boy are long over and done with and comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges, but still you are strapping a headset on your face nonetheless.

Virtual_Boy_Wario_Land_-_1995_-_Nintendo

I’m sure we have all heard our mothers yell at us for sitting to close to our television screen while playing video games at one point or another in our lives and the way this encounter usually went down was your mother warning you that sitting to close to the television will hurt your eyes. Although it is a myth and it’s a proven scientific fact that sitting close to our television sets will cause us no harm at all, the vast gaming community is still ignoring what the technology might do to our eyes and our brains. We are essentially heading down a rabbit hole with little information as possible. Typical gamers put an average amount of 6.5 hours per a week into games and hardcore gamers are sometimes spending that much every day. Now it’s one thing to be looking at a television for that long; you’re not completely encased in a television, you still have lights all around you and even if you’re watching in the dark, you still don’t have blinders fixating your eyes on the screen.

While our current understanding is that VR is safe, it’s still an incredibly new technology that has not been tested by the masses. All we need is another Virtual Boy eye-melting experience on our hands and with PlayStation already making claims that VR is the future of the console, they could be walking on a tight rope without a net to catch them. Even all the unknown effects of prolonged VR exposure aside, this very statement sends shivers down our spins, “I think VR is on top of everyone’s mind about what the next ten years are going to be about,” said Sony’s computer entertainment boss for Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Michael Ephraim. If this does not ring any bells to you or encapsulate fear into your very soul, let us remind you of when the hot new thing was motion controls. Remember motion controls? Remember how much it made gaming suck? Sure you do because no one has picked up a set of PlayStation move controls since their conception and the Sixaxis controller died out fast. The only company to go down with the ship was Nintendo’s Wii who even then developed a more traditional controller to supplement its nunchucks.

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If Sony was to jump on board the VR train and push the VR gimmick on its community and it doesn’t stick, they could be sitting the in the current predicament that the Wii has sat in for the past decade. VR is still in part a large mystery and although we are all about furthering technology and reaching for the stars, we are still gamers at heart and nothing will ever beat a traditional controller in hand and  TV across from us. The question in the back of our minds is how does this effect social gaming? Your friend come over and already they spend half their time looking down at their phones instead of being apart of the conversation and now we will have a headset setting up a wall when it comes to social gaming. Now we can’t even see (or hear if they have a headset on) our friend. It’s a little complaint, but it’s the small things that get us.

  • Alien Invader Studio

    Yes it’s a gimmick and it will fail yet again.

    • Nic Cote

      no dude there will be tottaly be games with the depth and complexity of the soul’s games cause people who buy this stuff are definetly fit enough to dodge roll.

  • Sticky Notes

    This doesn’t make sense. Even if VR doesn’t catch on, it wont stop games from coming to the PS4. The Wii’s problem was that their was no third party support. So that is a false equivalency because the PS4 is already doing great without VR whereas the Wii’s claim to fame WAS motion controls.

    VR is also not a gimmick. Its a different way to experience immersive entertainment.

    I would like you to do an article postulating what would happen if VR takes off and Sony is the only console with dedicated VR game support? What if VR awakens a new era of creativity and exploration?

    “we are still gamers at heart and nothing will ever beat a traditional controller in hand and TV across from us” — No. That just sounds like the mentality of someone too old and stuck in their ways to change or try something different. You would have the world give up email to experience the joys of licking stamps and waiting 3 weeks for a message. This whole article then, is nothing more than attempt at stopping change. You don’t want consumers to make this a success and for publishers to leave you in the past. I get it. But this is about creativity and new frontiers.

    You are afraid.

    • Nic Cote

      “different way to experience immersive entertainment” thats like a marketing doublespeak way of saying yea this is absolutely an expensive gimmick

    • Chin Livepuzzler

      VR is a gimmick, at least to me

  • XbotMK1

    This reads like another agenda driven shill article. I bet this website was defending Kinect. The hypocrisy in game journalism today is abundant, especially this generation.

  • Zobeid

    This entire article is based on a misconception. Quote: “Although it was possible to get your hands on pseudo VR back in the 90s, it was at a great risk of your personal health and a total commercial failure. The Virtual Boy was the first attempt at VR. . .”

    Virtual Boy was not a VR product. It was not the first attempt at VR, or any sort of attempt at VR. It had no relation to VR aside from having the word “virtual” in its name. Part of the reason for its failure may have been Nintendo’s rather insulting tactic of putting “virtual” in the name and implying some sort of connection with VR when there obviously was none.

    Virtual Boy was a tabletop 3D game machine, and it was not the first. The GCE Vectrex had already offered similar functionality with its Vectrex 3D Imager accessory — and it also failed in the market, even though it added color and it at least didn’t require you to shove your face into the display.

  • Edonus

    I hope VR is not a failure. I have been gaming for over 30 years and video gaming needs to start adding more. Motion controls and things like Kinect were a big stepping stone we needed but the gaming media decided that against it and use their influence to cripple these steps forward. I know lots of the negativity was just hate for MS and the X1 so I am hoping that since this is Sony the gaming media will ease off or actually push t down the throats of the gaming community.
    It has become clear that the gaming media wont let gaming move forward unless its Sony moving it forward and even though that’s sad and pathetic that may just be how it is. After Sony releases VR and it become a normal standard acceptable thing then the other companies can come out and refine the experience and add their twists and spins

    • 3dgrunge

      Might want stop gaming for a year and learn to read.

      Motion gaming was touted as the next big thing and only failed after devs failed to utilize it properly, same goes for 3d displays.

      The same thing will happen to VR. The gaming media will continue to worship it but the people who have used it will laugh and save our money because it is terrible and useless beyond a that was interesting experience type thing.

      • Edonus

        I can read absolutely fine… thanks for your concern. My suggestion to you would be don’t listen to what they say look at what they do. Motion gaming was touted for its potential but look at how the gaming media did nothing but attack it and slander it. They made enjoying the product on a social level impossible because they colored the experiences and scared gamers away.
        Technology like Motion gaming, 3d and VR and AR need time to be refined. I played so many motion controlled games that were not perfect but could have been spectacular after a few iterations. To this day I think a proper Kinect boxing game ( not a mini game) and Golf game would be industry defining. In the games we got that are motion controlled there is tons f fun to be had
        But there are rough spots….. the gaming media focuses on those rough spots and that’s all.
        VR is in the same boat. the first set of VR games wont be spectacular but the media needs to just shut up let the gamers give feed back what they like and don’t and let the devs fix and push the tech…….. instead of running full on negative campaigns about how its broken. If they let the devs do their job we can get there.

  • Alex Serrano

    Ok wait….why is Sony and for the most part Microsoft putting this much effort Into all this VR tech? What the should be trying get a hold of is better hardware into consoles. They can’t even figure out the 1080p 60fps problem….right???

    • Lucas Tonoli

      To be fair, there is no 1080p and 60FPS problem per se, just the hardware hitting the hard limit of its capabilities, you can’t expect a 400 box to run stuff perfectly every single time. To me, game developing companies should focus on 60FPS above everything else and then push the graphical fidelity to the limits of the hardware (if possible, putting resolution as priority above fancy shaders and light effects) without going bellow that frame rate; unfortunately, frames are not as much of a priority for the consumers, even if some loud minorities like us complain on youtube and game related sites; corporations get their feedback from proper market studies and everything seems to indicate graphics and “realism” are the number one priority for the majority of the people.
      For the VR, Sony (and the companies developing games for their HMD) seems to be taking a selective approach: the graphical fidelity varies greatly depending on the type of game, if there is a lot going on and you can move around too much, the graphics are simpler with a clean art style; If the experience is more static, they ramp up the graphics a bit more. Their head mounted display has a narrower FOV than the competition and that surely helps with the performance, same with the lower resolution (when compared to announced specs of the commercial release OR and Vive). They also use frame interpolation on some applications/games, I’m guessing for the more graphically intensive ones so that the impact on the frame latency it will surely provoque isn’t as noticeable for the user.

      I personally want VR/HMD for niche games like simulators (ARMA, -eventually- whatever comes from TitanIM, Eurotruck simulator and maybe some space sim too), so I honestly don’t care if it is a big commercial success or not, other enthusiastic users will take care of porting the VR functionality to the titles I play regardless. God bless the modding communities.

    • J.j. Barrington

      See, here’s the thing too many gamers don’t understand: there’s no such thing as a 1080/60 problem.

      Every game out there could reach those numbers if the developers chose to dial back on graphical effects.

      But they don’t want to.

      And I don’t blame them. I’d rather a game look as good as it can at its optimal resolution than take graphical hits in order to achieve some randomly set standard. Those numbers alone don’t make a game look better.

      • Lucas Tonoli

        No, they don’t make them look better, they make them play better at the same resolution and frame rate as 99% of the displays being used for gaming out there. Having the same frame rate as the refresh rate of the screen reduces tearing and making out the most out of the resolution the majority of the screen should always be a priority, resolution is far more important when it comes to graphical fidelity than some stupid light effect or an overdone tessellation.
        Frames have an impact on gameplay and games are about that, gameplay, not fancy images, you want pretty images go watch a movie.

        • J.j. Barrington

          Different games in different genres are about different things. Hell, even games in the same genre have different requirements or needs. A slower-paced fighter like UFC or wrestling games don’t benefit as much from a high framerate as faster-paced titles like a Street Fighter or BlazBlue.

          I’ll take improved graphical effects that allow me to see a more fully fleshed out world. But if YOU wanna be looking at 80s style polygon models at high framerates, be my guest. It’s not as if the games are missing out on gameplay because they don’t match the refresh rate of the TV.

          • Lucas Tonoli

            “I’ll take improved graphical effects that allow me to see a more fully fleshed out world. But if YOU wanna be looking at 80s style polygon models at high framerates, be my guest”
            Nice reductionism right there, m80. Do you consider MGSV to haven an 80s style polygon models? I don’t and I’m fairly certain the majority of the people doesn’t. 30FPS or anything bellow 50 looks choppy and you’re far off from the default capabilities of the majority of the displays. There is nothing subjective about any of that (maybe the 50FPS mark as a bare minimum, but the rest is objective).
            All I’m saying is: You don’t get anything positive out of shoving in some overly-complex hair physics engine or some unoptimized particle system and, in exchange, you leave a sizable amount of the players with a subpar experience in terms of movement fluidity or even resolution, which is what pretty much determines how clear the image looks. Again, matching the game resolution with the resolution of the display reduces screen tearing, which is another negative effect on the image quality. Less FPS take away response time, any game with actual gameplay gets worse with lower FPS. Another couple of FACTS for you.

          • J.j. Barrington

            Define gameplay.

          • Lucas Tonoli

            The definition of gameplay would be anything that demands interaction from the player.
            Frames are of critical important when the player’s input is a response to something dynamic that might be limited in time before perceiving a penalization (blocking an attack from an enemy, aiming at something, pressing a button during a QTE, jumping to a platform as you move forward closer to an edge or the platform itself moves, etc). I should have clarified that very early turn based games are not directly affected by poor frame rate all that much; I mean, the animations will look worse/more choppy, sure, but the delay on your input won’t affect your performance like it would do on pretty much all the other games were time doesn’t stop waiting for you to send an order. Now a days most turn-based RPG have some sort of dynamic situation: combos, timed input for special attacks, dodging or some other stuff. Frames affect gameplay and trying to argue that is either a poor trolling attempt or a severe case of ignorance on the matter at hand.

          • J.j. Barrington

            lmao, you’re deluding yourself.

            Where’s the choppy gameplay in DriveClub? Or any number of 30fps games out there that stay at that number and still run smoothly? Choppy gameplay exists when frames are dropped, like from 60 down to 50.

            Most turn-based games like…? You’re making assumptions you can’t back up just to suit your argument. You say “very early” as if to discount the FACT that the same reason they weren’t affected back then is why they’re not affected now. Games 30fps throughout the history of the media have been hailed for their gameplay; the animations being smoother at a higher framerate doesn’t make the 30fps performance crap.

            Or are you really saying that all those games were no good because they weren’t running 60fps?

          • Lucas Tonoli

            “Where’s the choppy gameplay in DriveClub? Or any number of 30fps games out there that stay at that number and still run smoothly? Choppy gameplay exists when frames are dropped, like from 60 down to 50.”

            Driveclub looks choppy, maybe you have some sort of eyesight problem, but the game isn’t smooth, not even close to being smooth. We can’t play that at 60FPS because the game is trapped on a fixed hardware system, but if you compare it to some other driving game with similar graphical fidelity like Dirt Rally, you can clearly see which one is more fluid. Most games now a days are developed with logic tied to time, not to frames, therefore having less frames being displayed leaves you with less time to response, acting like an input delay. Working logic based on frames produces slowdowns (that are still common on some Japanese games, particularly the smaller scale productions) and can induce all sorts of bugs and problems if the frame rate isn’t perfectly stable (on these age of poorly done ports and extremely varied hardware on people’s PC, that has become a common occurrence).

            “Most turn-based games like…? You’re making assumptions you can’t back up just to suit your argument”

            I’m not making any assumptions, do you even know how old turn-based RPGs were? I’m backing every single one of my arguments with solid information based on first hand experience.

            In most turn based games from old, time was irrelevant, you had all the time in the world to do stuff as soon as you had your turn, so frame wasn’t affecting gameplay. In the last 10 or 12 years, many turn based RPG have incorporated timing as a gameplay element, stuff like White Knight Chronicles, Resonance of Fate and many more will have you pressing your commands at specific times to chain attacks or make full effect of whatever action you took.

            “Games 30fps throughout the history of the media have been hailed for their gameplay; the animations being smoother at a higher framerate doesn’t make the 30fps performance crap.”
            Regarding the frames on actually old games, most of them were at the limit of the displays back then (50-60 Hz rate), like 99% of the NES and SNES titles ran at 60 FPS, same with the majority of the Genesis titles. Early 3D stuff had erratic frames per second in most cases, the hardware limitations were notorious, consoles were very task specific in terms of hardware so games like Virtua Racing on the Genesis tended to have some drops and it looked choppy when compared to the arcades version that ran always at 60FPS. Again, the norm was by large 60-50 (depending on the display being used). The N64 and PsX had plenty of games with bad FPS, but many ran just fine (mainly on the PsX. The Ps2 and Gamecube era was filled with games that ran at either 30 or 60, with more of the later, you can easily look it up.

            Games are good when gameplay is the priority and lower frame rates affect gameplay. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

        • 3dgrunge

          60fps changes nothing from 30fps in terms of gameplay.

  • Martin Brentnall

    The Virtual Boy comparison is ridiculous; Virtual Boy was not VR in any sense of the term. It was a stereoscopic monochrome display. Not VR.

    Incidentally, I’ve been playing with my Samsung Gear VR for about two months now and the gaming experiences I’ve had on it have been more exciting and interesting than everything else I played during the whole of 2015. I have no doubt that PlayStation VR is going to be amazing.

  • J.j. Barrington

    Good lord…

  • J.j. Barrington

    I think it’s just this author.

  • Jimmy DoneGood

    Playstation Vr will bomb just like every other Sony accessory or peripheral. nothing is new.

    • Nic Cote

      hey look its someone with enough sense to spot an expensive fad

  • CleanFun

    Monitors work because I can still function effortlessly in the real world while still doing my thing. Another +1 for Augmented Reality.

  • 3dgrunge

    Yes those of us that have used modern VR know that it is a gimmick worse than 3d monitors.

    VR will never be the new social gaming thing outside of niche areas. It requires way too much bulky crap and is honestly quite bad at being 1 to 1 with the players movements completely ruining the experience.

  • Voqar

    I think VR is an overrated gimmick being pushed by people who make VR hardware and the press. I really don’t think people will ever want to do extensive gaming with something attached to their face, and for many of us, we don’t want to use controllers – ever. It’s also not exactly cheap. I don’t see it getting enough traction to justify its existence.

  • Pyrinder

    It already IS a gimmick. I mean, look how many damn things you have to use for the “true experience”. It’s like having to set up a home theater for the first time when they first arrived. You know with all the small speakers to set up around your living room, the speaker stands, the TV in the center .etc for this “Theater-like experience”.

    Only we’re doing it with games now by strapping a stupid pair of goggles over our head (like THAT hasn’t been done before) and requiring all these things to wear. It’s just not worth the effort for a few hundred dollars for crying out loud.

    It’s a very expensive gimmick for the supposed “privileged” to experience.

    You want VR so bad? People are going to need dedicated rooms for the whole idea of VR to be experienced. It’s not going to be possible with goggles, that’s for damn sure. VR sounds more like a very involved project that’s 20 – 30 years away from being perfected and we’re just running in place with age-old ideas of what we thought VR would be like.

    All we’ve got so far is just expensive sensors…big whoop.

  • Skeptic

    VR was a novelty for a couple of weeks – then it became showing it to friends and family and now it has sat unused in my cupboard for the last 3 months. VR despite all it’s promises will ALWAYS be a gimmick.