Will VR hold a real place in gaming in 2020?

VR gaming is at something of a crossroads. While recent virtual reality technology available definitely been a game-changer in terms of possibility, it has yet to catch on commercially. So will this change in 2020?
VR 2020
Virtual reality gaming has yet to establish itself as a mainstream interest. Photo: Marco Verch via Flickr.

Cost barrier

Undoubtedly, one of the big barriers to entry with VR is cost. Virtual reality technology remains expensive, and this has helped to ensure that the gaming technology remains a rather niche interest, for a relative handful of dedicated enthusiasts.

Another problem with VR has been the lack of a killer app. A piece of software that gamers simply have to have can save even the most misguided and poorly marketed platform. People tend to forget that the PlayStation 2 – still the biggest-selling console ever – was flagging in its early days, before Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec became the compelling reason to purchase the new Sony system.

Conversely, nothing has yet cropped up in the VR field which has really captured the imagination of gamers. There have been some good, solid titles, but nothing that has promised to really transform the field of gaming, and make even the sceptics sit up and pay attention.

VR 2020
The Star Trek: Bridge Crew VR title has proven to be one of the more popular virtual reality games released thus far. Photo: Oculus.

Make or break

So whatever the manufacturers say, whatever lofty claims are made for existing hardware, or the immersiveness of virtual reality, games will make or break the whole concept. Thus, 2020 won’t see a paradigm shift in the perception of VR, unless there are some releases that create a buzz in the gaming community.

One such hope is Valve’s upcoming Half-Life: Alyx, not merely because it’s the continuation of a much-loved and critically regarded franchise, but also because it is a VR exclusive. While it’s understandable that developers haven’t been too keen to put all of their eggs into the VR basket at this point in time, this sort of commitment from Valve could help to stimulate interest in virtual reality systems.

There are several other big games planned for 2020 that could help to shift VR units. Medal of Honor: Above & Beyond will deliver some classic World War II shooting to the VR field. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners will see the hugely popular dystopian narrative get a VR update. And there are high hopes for other virtual reality titles, including Iron Man VR and Sniper Elite VR.

VR 2020
Despite a wide variety of titles and experiences being made available on VR platforms, gamers have yet to enthusiastically embrace the concept. Photo: Oculus.

Convenience and accessibility

But it’s hard to see even the very respectable list of games that are due to release on VR this year really changing the perception of the medium. The problem that VR faces is two-fold; it’s expensive, and people don’t want to wear the headsets. Virtual reality is neither convenient nor accessible enough.

And that won’t change next year. There could be a fantastic release in the VR field that does help convert a tranche of gamers to VR. But most regular players will be perfectly happy to stick to two-dimensions and a gamepad. The real game-changer in virtual reality will be when developers are able to provide a virtual reality experience via glasses, or something significantly less obtrusive. Only then will VR seem like a more attractive proposition for anything approaching the majority of gamers.

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