The future of VR gaming

We explore the pros and cons of VR systems currently on offer, and see how this immersive technology could change the face of gaming.

This summer’s much-anticipated E3 video games expo showcased some of the biggest upcoming titles in the industry. The event also demonstrated an interesting discrepancy when it came to Virtual Reality gaming.

While Sony teased a series of titles for its PSVR headset, including fantasy role-playing game Skyrim and a spinoff for the popular Final Fantasy XV, Microsoft’s announcements hardly mentioned VR.

This reflects a growing divide in the gaming world, between those who believe VR is the next big thing and those who argue it’s overrated.

Recent years have seen VR systems go from strength to strength, with headsets available for both PCs and living room consoles. However, these headsets have not yet revolutionised the gaming world, as many gamers predicted they would.

We explore the pros and cons of VR systems currently on offer, and look to the future to see how this immersive technology could change the face of gaming.

What is VR gaming?

Virtual reality is a system that allows gamers to feel like they’re inside the game environment. A headset and a set of biosensors in a glove or suit allow the user to move through the game world and interact with it using natural movements.

The sensors record the user’s movements and feed them back into the game to create appropriate on-screen responses and create a fully immersive experience.

How do current systems shape up?

The most common options for home VR gaming involve a low-cost headset and a data glove, linked to a games console or gaming PC. While these provide an enjoyable immersive experience, the lack of high-end graphics can currently hold players back from truly believing that they have truly entered the game world.

However, with these products setting a precedent, components are gradually becoming more accessible and affordable. That means we’re starting to see believable, high quality VR experiences in our own living rooms.

Popular game distribution service Steam released its SteamVR Home product in Beta this summer, championing new levels of accuracy for home systems. SteamVR Home comprises of a headset and two input controllers, one for each hand. The controllers and headset work together to create a miniature GPS system, accurate to the nearest millimetre, capturing even the player’s slightest motions.

Alongside the PSVR, the HTC Vive, and the acclaimed Oculus Rift, SteamVR is paving the way for widely-available home VR consoles in the future. So what will the world of gaming look like over the next five years?

What does the future hold?

If the E3 conference is anything to go by, the availability of affordable VR systems is already giving rise to an increase in big-name immersive games. With top game developers such as Bethesda now working on full-length VR role-playing adventures, gamers are going to have good reasons to invest in a system.

In the meantime, developers are working to make VR hardware less bulky and distracting, as well as more accessible.

The current Vive and the Oculus headsets both require high-end gaming computers to run them, making them unavailable to more casual gamers. In comparison, Sony's PSVR is compatible with the widely available PS4 console, making the overall experience cost significantly less, and ensuring that PlayStation-savvy users are familiar with the system’s basic functionalities.

Will VR ever take over the gaming world entirely, rendering traditional PC and console games redundant? It’s unlikely. Many games that have already come out on VR systems, such as Oculus Rift’s Lucky’s Tale, have been criticised by gamers for not making the most of the systems’ capabilities.

It currently looks more likely that VR gaming will continue to sit side-by-side with conventional gaming, taking on only the titles that best suit immersive gameplay.

Here to stay?

While home VR’s initial releases have failed to live up to the hype, competition between platforms and game developers could lead to the VR headset becoming a regular fixture in even the most casual gamer’s arsenal.

Another interesting possibility is that home VR systems will fail to hold the public’s interest compared to more expensive, fully immersive systems.

This may lead to the majority of gamers sticking with conventional consoles at home, and getting their VR fix at arcades and theme parks that offer higher specs and more convincing immersion.

Whether you can’t wait to get your hands on a VR controller or you think it’s a passing fad, one thing’s for sure: the gaming world will continue to push the boundaries of escapism.

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