Friday, May 5, 2017

VR feels like a strange religion

I wrote in a recent post how people keep telling me that VR is the future, and will revolutionize the gaming industry, even though sales figures and the VR triple-A game library don't back up that claim.

Just as an example of that, I just had an online conversation with someone, about this exact subject. He mentioned exactly that, ie. that VR is the future, and blaa blaa.

I presented my doubts, giving my counter-arguments, related to the sales figures (both PC VR headsets combined have sold in one year less than a popular game console typically sells in its first week, and only a small fraction of what it sells in a year), how the adoption rate is abysmal (less than 0.2% of Steam users have a VR headset), which makes creating triple-A games for it really unprofitable, and I made a comparison with the two other quintessential examples of recent commercial failures, ie. the PS Vita and the Kinect, and the reasons why they failed (eg. one factor for the latter is the almost complete separation of Kinect games and normal games, with extremely little overlap, the lack of triple-A games, and so on.)

His response to all that was one that I have heard a million times already, and which is just... naive. It was the typical "everybody who has tried VR loves it" argument. As if that countered everything I said about sales figures etc. He was saying it in complete seriousness.

There seems to exist a strange psychological phenomenon that presenting arguments about why VR might not become highly successful after all, is somehow equated with making the claim that VR sucks. These conversations quickly become very heated, no matter how calmly I try to present the hard cold facts. It seems like these... "converts", for the lack of a better word, feel attacked if somebody doubts the future success of VR. They seem to think that doubting that is the same as saying that VR is not an awesome experience.

There's also this very common notion that "you have to try it to "get" it". Again, this is just such a non-sequitur. It almost feels like the argument is that if I try VR, all those arguments, the sales figures, the lack of triple-A titles and so on, will just vanish, and I will see the error of my ways and be "converted" to VR. It almost feels like a religious person, like a Scientologist or something, trying to convince somebody to "just try it", which will somehow magically make all the doubts disappear. Or like a drug addict.

But of course none of that matters. No matter how "awesome" the experience may be, no matter how much of a religious rush it may cause, that's not going to somehow magically pump those sales figures up, or magically conjure a boatload of triple-A games for it, or bring the price of headsets down.

Again, I'm not saying it won't happen. It may well happen. Perhaps a couple of years from now they will release v. 2.0 of their headsets at a quarter of their current price, and they will sell tens of millions of units, and tons of triple-A titles will start flooding the market, and it will be a success of such magnitude that has never been seen before.

Or maybe not. I'm just not seeing the signs.

A year has passed, yet I have not even heard of either HTC or Oculus planning a new improved and cheaper version of their headsets. The price of their current headsets hasn't come down a bit. They are still as expensive as they were a year ago. That's not exactly helping those sales figures.

I would claim that it's just a fact that as long as they don't drop the prices of the headsets to at least half of what they are now (and preferably to one third or even one quarter), they aren't going to sell. That's just how it is. They should have at least cheaper versions of the headsets if they hope to have any success at all. Else they are going to kill the platform.

They also need triple-A games. As long as they maintain the strict separation between regular games and VR games, with very little to no overlap, that's going to hurt the popularity of VR. (And adding VR to "normal" games does not mean that they should do what Bethesda is trying to do with Fallout4, or id Software is trying to do with Doom, ie. create a complete separate game mode within the game for VR. Which they seem to have been doing for like a year now, with little to show for it. Again, this is just a wall of complete separation. It's creating an entirely new game, just reusing the engine and assets.)

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