Friday, June 10, 2016

Oculus VR is boycotting itself

The new VR headsets have, a bit surprisingly for all parties involved, stumbled across some hurdles which, at least for me personally (and some other people), are warning signs that they might end up flopping after all, regardless of the hype surrounding them. These warning signs include:
  • VR, unlike was expected for a very long time, "doesn't work" for almost any traditional form of video gaming, especially not for traditional first-person shooters (which was for a very long time the original main genre expected to be enhanced by VR). What they mean with "doesn't work" is that most people get nausea if using VR in a traditional video game, and this problem is deemed to be so bad that most developers have outright completely abandoned the idea of adding VR support for traditional games. You will not be getting any such games for VR from the vast majority of developers (unless there is a shift in attitude in the future). There is only a very narrow set of game genres for which VR works as-is (mainly the vehicle simulation genre, and a narrow set of 3rd-person perspective genres). The rest of the game library, it seems, will have to consist of exclusives, with extremely limited gameplay mechanics.
  • Speaking of which, that's another warning sign: If your platform has extremely limited gameplay mechanics, something that hinders gameplay, and games need to be explicitly designed for it, it may end up with a poor library of triple-A games. Exactly what happened to the infamous Kinect. (Yes, the controls of VR are a thousand times more accurate and fluent than those of the Kinect, but it's still remarkably similar in terms of limitations and requirements.)
  • The devices are extraordinarily expensive at launch, way over the price range of the average user. On top of that, most users would need to upgrade their computer to meet the minimum requirements, making VR even more expensive. You really don't maximize adoption rates by pricing your device over twice as expensive as what the average user can comfortably afford, for a rather niche feature.
VR has had a rather shaky start, regardless of the hype (both pre- and post-launch). Poor adoption rates, poor game library, and practical problems in terms of game design.

And now it's getting even worse. For some unfathomable reason Oculus VR has now suddenly decided to treat their VR headset as if it were a game console that's competing for market share with other similar devices, using all the same dirty (and ultimately detrimental) marketing tactics.

Not only has there been a recent controversy about Oculus "closing" the development for their device, meaning that development for it cannot be done by third-party tools (although at the moment of writing this it's still not completely clear whether this implies a completely closed platform or if the claims are exaggerated, but there definitely has been something going on on this front), but several examples have surfaced of an absolutely ridiculous thing: Exclusive games.

A VR headset is not a console! The idea of a game exclusive to a certain VR headset is as ridiculous as the idea of a game that's exclusive to a certain display brand.

For some reason Oculus Rift has gained a lot of negative hype over the last few months. It seems that most people already consider the Rift dead, and think that the Vive is the superior product. People are already calling this "a war that has already been lost." (This is in itself a really stupid thing. Healthy competition is good for the consumers. Killing competition and giving monopoly to a single brand on a silver platter is bad for the consumers, and a completely idiotic thing to do. The consumers are the ones who suffer from monopolies.)

Apparently, however, Oculus VR has started combating this negative hype with games that are Rift-exclusive. This must be one of the most idiotic ideas in the history of humanity.

Exclusive games are not going to make the product more popular. It will cause the exact opposite reaction. It will only strengthen the negative hype surrounding the product. It will paint Oculus VR as a greedy corporation. It's a PR disaster. And the developers of those games will suffer themselves too, because of poorer sales. Nobody will benefit from this.

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