5 Reasons Why I’ve Waited on Paying Big for VR

As a professional in digital media and marketing, I feel a tension in the adoption of any new technology. When do you buy and how do you know if the purchase will be worth it? You need to learn about emerging technologies, but If you’re spending your own money, you don’t want to waste it on something that might soon be obsolete or unsupported (Google Glass, ahem).

I recently decided to invest in virtual reality. I felt a responsibility to learn as much as I could about the technology, even at personal expense. First, though, I had to figure out what the hell I should buy. A few factors went into consideration.

1. Macs Can’t Play

I’d seen some comments online that macs weren’t adequate for running virtual reality. Some quick investigation revealed that the source of these comments seemed to be a quote from Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey, who responded to a question about Mac support with the following:

“That is up to Apple. If they ever release a good computer, we will do it.”

Ouch. Without devolving to a Mac vs. PC argument, I’d say that when viewed strictly through the lens of system power — yes, Macs aren’t powerful enough to support the Oculus, but ruling out the twenty percent of the world market who are using macs (and also high spenders) seems a bit…extreme? Let’s hope VR and Mac come to some kind of crossroads soon. Apple has been pretty quiet, lately…

Oculus and its peripherals.

If I wanted an Occulus, it looked as if I’d need a new rig. I started reading reviews of the Oculus, of which there are many. These are a few I found helpful.

Your Mac is fine for VR, just not the Rift

Oculus Rift review by Wearable.com

Oculus Rift v HTC Vive: Which VR headset should you get?

I also ran a Twitter poll to see what people said. Oculus did not score well. The overwhelming feedback pointed to either the Vive or waiting until the next generation of devices.

2. Dat Money, Doe.

Based on the reviews, Oculus was out, and no one was really talking about any other virtual or augmented reality devices, other than HTC’s Vive. The Vive was also incompatible with Macs, and with a price tag of $799, I’d be looking at spending well over $1,500 between the purchase of the headset and a new computer system. That’s a lot of investment for a first generation device that I was interested in buying almost entirely for education.

3. Show me the GAMES!

Another factor in the decision of which headset to buy is games. A lot of digital ink has already been spilt discussing the virtues of the two systems: Oculus games vs. Vive games. Both systems have a decent selection of games, though few offer experiences lasting more than about 10 hours. The games seem to be either short or arcade-style games that are interesting for the novelty but become quickly exhausting. Both systems have some great choices on the way, with Vive bringing Fallout 4 and Doom in 2017. Oculus offers fewer games to entice me, though having skipped playing The Witness, I look forward to its appearance on VR. Wilson’s Heart also looks interesting, even if the trailer is a bit cheesy.

Wilson’s Heart trailer

Most tempting to me was a Vive game called The Gallery: Call of the Starseed, the first episode of which is out now on Steam and getting great reviews. I look forward to more of these puzzle-solving adventure games on VR, which are woefully absent at this point.

With PAX West on the horizon, I expect more VR games will be announced. Thus, I come to the conclusion that it’s too early to commit to either of the VR industry leaders. However, that doesn’t mean I’m deciding to do nothing — after all, a lot of my desire to pick up VR is about education.

4. The Unknown: Playstation VR

Playstation recently announced that its virtual reality headset for PS4 would be arriving in October. Priced below Oculus and Vive, this could present a nice alternative to folks like me who don’t have a PC gaming rig. Sony has shown great support for indie development, which means we’re likely to see a slew of innovative VR games in 2017 for PS4. With the weight of Sony behind the device, the game prospects seem brighter for this device than the others. Some exciting titles include Batman Arkham VR, Resident Evil VII Biohazard, and Star Wars Battlefront. Most intriguing to me is, Golem. I expect PAX West to play a decisive role in whether I decide to pick this device up in October.

5. The Cross-Compatibility Dilemma

Samsung’s Gear VR

So I’ve decided to pass on the first generation of Vive and Oculus. Instead, after researching alternatives, I’m investing in Samsung’s Gear VR, which is compatible with most of Samsung’s recent phones. The game options aren’t nearly as sophisticated as anything from Oculus, Vive, or Sony, but for the low price of $99 on Amazon, it’s hardly a significant investment to get some VR experience. I think all the systems are still waiting for a killer app — the game that wins a decisive victory over the competition. With Vive aligned with Steam, Oculus doing its own thing with some support from Xbox, and Sony creating its own headset, it feels a bit like console wars 2.0. I already own both a Playstation 4 and Xbox One, and I’m not eager to invest in two VR devices. I suspect, though, that with the technology still emerging, we won’t see a lot of cross-platform development until VR games see more investment.

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