The current state and the challenges of VR

Times are a-changin’. Controlling space ships, walking around in frightening horror houses and feeling dazzling speed: there are a lot of things you probably have always wanted to do, but fear was standing in your way. VR makes it all possible in a quality that’s very acceptable. Sounds too good, right?

There are some challenges the new born eyecatcher ‘VR’ has to face. It takes a big amount of money to bring a high-end virtual reality experience to your living room, so there’s a question that’s often been mentioned: ‘Is it worth it?’ I am a believer and this blog is meant to give the reader more insight in the exciting things that happened since the introduction of VR to the consumer, especially focussed on the PlayStation VR.

Where’s the killerapp? Keep your eyes peeled to discover!

One of the problems of the current state of VR is the lack of ‘full length’ games. It’s raining ‘VR experiences’ that will keep you busy for like fifteen minutes, or a couple of hours.  But where’s the AAA production that steals a bigger part of your time? If you like horror games, Resident Evil 7 is a great demonstration of VR’s true potential. And yes: it will take at least 9 hours of your time. It will leave you behind frightened, claustrofobical and it definitely changes the way you play, compared to conventional gaming.

From now on, you will be more careful walking around. Danger could be everywhere and because you are the person that is in danger, locked up in a spooky house, owned by a psychopath family, you’ll make sure to check every corner. The graphical quality may be less convincing than you’re familiar with, but the experience is way more intense. Sony made a deal to bring VR compatibilities for this game exclusively to the PlayStation VR for at least a year. The headset itself already sold more than 1 million units. A game like Resident Evil 7 is interesting for a niche audience, and that’s the problem of selling VR units to the mass. There is no game like Call of Duty, FIFA or Battlefield fully playable in VR. The consumer isn’t assured he can count on support for the next years, because if people don’t buy VR headsets, no (big) new games will be made. And on the other hand: If there aren’t interesting games, why should you buy a headset that costs more than a console? Actually because there are a couple of great games to play. You’ll have to search more intensively than you are used to and that’s makes VR partially inaccessible for now. But give it a try. For example, take a look at RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, Edge of Nowhere, Dirt Rally, Resident Evil 7 (if you dare…), Superhot VR, Arizona Sunshine and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood.

VR <3 Music

VR could be considered as a tool to pull off new ways of interaction, media consumption and of course: communication. Aside of gaming, other sections of the entertainment business are trying to deliver ‘VR experiences’, often beside the release of a new product. Animated band Gorillaz created a dreamy videoclip for their single Saturnz Barz that puts the viewer partially in perspective within a…  – yes, there it is again – haunted house. The advantage? You’re no longer limited to a frame that has been chosen by the maker, so there is a possibility to explore different rooms. What if the rooms in this house contain secrets? Thanks to VR you are able to discover them. Because it’s a video clip instead of a videogame, you aren’t experiencing the maximum level of freedom, but at least you will have the feeling of being in the same room as the members of the world famous band. If you don’t want to watch bass player Murdoc pull out his dirty underwear, it is simply possible to look away.

But if you are standing in the middle of a cheering crowds? Why should you look away? Last January, Belgian musician Netsky indirectly performed live for a crowd of…PlayStation VR owners. Did you want to visit an Adele concert but weren’t you able to buy tickets? It might be an idea to reserve a VR seat in the future that’s behind a paywall. That’s one of my expectations about one of the many doors VR is opening.

Saturnz Barz 360 movie video

High-level difficulty of communicating a feeling

But how do you sell a product that only is capable of convincing consumers by letting them put on the headset in real life? How do you communicate the quality of a product that is the most convincing in testing sessions? People that haven’t tried VR, actually can’t say anything about VR in my opinion. Sony created a couple of useful instruction videos to make the use of a VR headset accessible. Aside of that, the Japanese company tries to deliver high quality VR for a relatively low pricing. Instead of it’s competitors, Sony is attaching the ‘low costing’ to comfort, easy connecting with your console and a wide range of games. Plug and play is just an example of how to tackle this tricky question.

Huffington post author Sophia Dominguez wrote about the right way to sell this ‘new kid in school.’ In her article ‘How to market VR’, she is using information of Simon Sinek, a TED-talker and writer. Sinek explains that answering the question ‘why the consumer need this product’ is most important. Why do people need a VR headset? To increase the level of credibility, immersion and interaction with the environment content creators made for you. Don’t market VR in way that is putting the ‘what?’-question in the middle. What VR is doesn’t say much about why people need VR. People has to try it in real life and if you want to sell a VR headset, you have to tell them why they have to.

Turning green?

There’s still another challenge for VR to face: some people are sensitive to motion sickness. Always dreamt of flying an X-Wing, straight out of the Star Wars movies you love? No problem, VR will drop you right in the seat of a pilot that is accompanied by a droid with a lot of engineering skills. Nothing bad can happen, right? For a lot of people, it may take some time to conquer the mindgame virtual reality is playing. The fluid movement of your head is being taken over in the game, even in combination with jumping, leaping and turning spaceships, mechs and other types of (huge) vehicles. Your head might turn green after some time and inverted eating isn’t excluded, so be sure to play 15-minute sessions in the beginning of your VR adventure. The creators of the well-received X-Wing Mission had to slow down the vehicle to prevent ‘VR newcomers’ would become ill during their first meeting with this new kind of reality. So: be open minded and don’t give up after your first assembly with it.

It’s a tough job to bring an expensive headset that’s even more expensive than your PlayStation console (in this case). Even if you are willing to buy a higher priced VR headset, you’re going to need a very powerful computer to get the most out of it. So, in the first place: VR is expensive. VR might cause motion sickness and the amount of full length AAA games is small. But playing a game in virtual reality makes you always wanting more, it’s an addiction. Take a deeper look at the available games and if you got the chance to put a high-end headset on your head: don’t hesitate. Entering a new area is always kind of scary. Neil Armstrong probably didn’t felt comfortable during his walk on the moon, but when he got used to the environment, magic was in the air

What’s next? 5 upcoming VR games we are looking forward to:

 1. Ace Combat 7 – 2017 –

2. Farpoint – 18/05/2017 –

3. Gran Turismo Sport (partially playable in VR) – 2017 –

4. Fallout 4 VR – 2017 –

5. Star Trek Bridge Crew – 30/05/2017 –