December 28, 2015
Analysts: VR Won't Go Mainstream In 2016 As Price, Other Barriers Hold It Back

It looks like 2016 will be the year the gaming market is flooded with virtual reality (VR) devices, such as the PlayStation VR for the PS4, Oculus Rift from Facebook, HTC Vive with Valve, Samsung, and others. Should consumers expect these devices to take off, though? A group of gaming analysts believe there is a future in the virtual reality gaming space; it will just take more than 2016 to get there.

Analysts Patrick Walker of EEDAR, Jesse Divinich of Product Strategy and Insights, plus independent analyst Billy Pidgeon all shared their insights and predictions for VR devices in 2016 with Games Industry. The price of the new devices appears to be a strong concern, but there are other factors at play.

Patrick Walker, EEDAR

VR will launch to critical success and strong consumer buzz, but pricing and other barriers will limit mass market adoption in 2016.

This will doom many of the startups in the space, but the major platform players will prevail and find success within several years.

People are bullish on VR in the long term because of the possibilities, but very few are bullish in the short term because of pricing and content barriers

Jesse Divnich, VP of Product Strategy & Insights, Titling Point
VR will eventually become a new emerging market for interactive entertainment; unfortunately it won't likely be until the end of 2016 and into 2017 where it starts to become a viable market. We are still very much early in VR and we've yet to have technological and interactive standards to efficiently drive cross platform development. There barely is a market place to sell VR games at the moment.
Billy Pidgeon, independent analyst
I believe VR and AR will eventually deliver exciting gameplay, but although hardware will be available in 2016, the technology will not drive more than a few must have games next year. I think we will begin to see demonstrations of satisfying experiential results from the strong development investments in VR and AR games and non-game apps toward the end of 2016. VR and AR will transform games and interactive applications, but most gamers aren't going to want it or need it until sometime between 2017 and 2020.
Interestingly, none of the VR headset makers have announced a price point for the consumer version of their devices despite being just a handful of months from launch. For example, the PlayStation VR is expected in the first quarter of 2016 and the current rumors are that it could cost as much as a new console while still requiring a PlayStation 4 to use.

Meanwhile, Virtual Reality devices such as the Oculus Rift will require a high-end PC to use. The most recent updated specs for Facebook's device include the following:

  • NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
  • Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
  • 8GB+ RAM
  • Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
  • 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
  • Windows 7 SP1 64-bit or newer
That's a high-end gaming PC that will easily cost well over $500 in addition to the predicted retail cost of the Oculus Rift package being over $350 by creator Palmer Luckey.

PlayStation VR is quite possibly poised for the greatest success thanks to a PlayStation 4 install base of over 30 million units worldwide prior to Black Friday and continues to dominate the current generation of consoles. It still has barriers to contend with as well including the price mentioned above plus the lack of any big AAA game support.

Games shown so far for all VR devices have ranged from mundane to interesting, but nothing on the level of a Bloodborne or Fallout 4. It will take developers and publishers a couple of years to shake out the possibilities with virtual reality games and deliver a high quality experience.

It would also be a mistake to discount the perception barrier with VR. Images of people with a bulky device strapped to their faces don't translate well to consumers. Additionally, seeing a demo on stage or in a video is completely different from experiencing it yourself.

Will you dip you toes into VR gaming in 2016? Which device tops your list? Sound off in the comments below.

[Image via Shutterstock]