News: VR Is Dead in the Water

Playstation VR is the final opportunity the technology will have.
VR has failed on the PC.

VR Becomes a Failed Technology for the Second Time

Several weeks back reported that the International Data Corporation had predicted that VR would experience exponential growth over the next four years, but that this growth would be driven by corporate utilisation rather than by consumer demand. It has now become apparent why the attention of analysts has shifted to corporate applications of VR, as the technology is basically dead as a consumer product. Nobody wants it.

Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive have shifted a bunch of units this year, but these shipments were mostly just to fill the orders of early adopters who bought into the technology when orders were made available through Kickstarter and various rounds of pre-order allotments. All this changed in July when the technology was finally made available for the general public to freely purchase, and since then VR has not been doing so well. A Steam hardware survey has this week revealed that in July ownership of both the HTC Vive and Oculus rift grew by 0.03 percent among Steam users, while in August ownership of the Oculus rift grew by just 0.01 percent and HTC Vive ownership effectively experienced no growth whatsoever.

All up 0.18 percent of Steam users own a HTC Vive, while just 0.10 percent of Steam users own an Oculus Rift – so neither headset is exactly setting the industry on fire. Part of this stagnation has been attributed to the steep pricing of the units, which is $600 for the Oculus Rift and $800 for the HTC Vive. It is possible that a lowering of pricing may lead to an amelioration of VR sales, yet it is uncertain just how much capacity either company has in being able to lower the price of headsets by a substantial amount. Playstation VR may also prop up the fortunes of VR when it releases, yet in all likelihood it will play out in precisely the same fashion as VR on the PC, just on a slightly larger scale. Right now VR sales are making the Ouya seem like a success by comparison, so it is difficult to see how developers will be able to continue justifying the production of VR software.

Sony Bowing
No support for 4k BluRay.

Sony Unveils the Playstation Pro

This week Sony has officially unveiled the Playstation Neo as the infinitely less cool sounding Playstation Pro. The console takes its design cues from the new Playstation 4 Slim model, but adds an extra layer of height to accommodate the Playstation Pro’s more beefy innards. The console is set to go on sale on November 10, and will retail at $399 – which was the launch price of the OG Playstation 4.

The Playstation Pro was ostensibly created to serve the growing market of 4k capable television sets by outputting video which exceeds a 1080p resolution. That being said, do not buy a Playstation Pro in the hopes of amassing a 4k BluRay collection, as Sony made the completely inexplicable decision not to include a 4k capable BluRay drive in order to shave a few dollars off of the manufacturing cost of the unit. Playstation Pro owners will still be able to watch 4k video content by purchasing it digitally from the Playstation store, but it really just is not the same as owning something physically. If one were to be cynical, then it might even be suggested that Sony neglected to include a 4k BluRay drive on purpose in order to force users to buy their video content through the Playstation store, as Sony does not get a cut of physical disc sales. Hilariously, Microsoft’s newest slim iteration of the Xbox One actually is capable of playing 4k BluRays, so Sony’s new system compares poorly in that respect.

For their money consumers will get a 4.2 teraflop machine, which compares quite nicely to the 1.84 teraflops of the Playstation 4 launch model. The machine is not capable of rendering most content in native 4k, but rather the aim seems to be to render the image at half resolution and then use a checkerboard tiling algorithm in order to double pixels to fit a 4k resolution. Obviously this does not look as good as a native 4k presentation, yet according to Digital Foundry the effect looks closer to 4k than one might otherwise imagine. Sony has made it clear that developers are free to use the extra power of the Playstation Pro to enhance their games however they see fit, and several of the games used to demonstrate the new console utilised it to render their games with improved graphical detail at a 1080p resolution, so one need not own a 4k TV in order to experience the benefit of owning the upgraded console.

Lazy concept is lazy.
Super Mario Run is based off of New Super Mario Bros.

Nintendo Reveals Super Mario Endless Runner

It was only a matter of time. When Nintendo announced their partnership with DeNA to produce mobile phone games many people collectively sighed picturing a future of cheap and nasty freemium endless runner games wearing the skin of Super Mario. Doubters were initially a little thrown off by the release of Pokemon Go, a quality title which made clever use of the inherent capabilities of the mobile phone platform. However, this week the future has arrived with the announcement of Super Mario Run – a game which very much caters to the lowest common denominator, as was initially feared.

From an overall gameplay perspective, the courses are a little bit shorter than normal because it’s really geared toward the quick play on a mobile device and the experience is one where if you’re not very good at Mario, you still get a real good sense of running through the level and reaching the flagpole at the end of the level.

Super Mario Run will be available on iOS platforms some time in December, with an Android version to follow. The game will be free to download, with Nintendo making their money through an in-app purchase required to unlock the full game. After the huge success of Pokemon Go it is genuinely disappointing to see Nintendo pursue such an uncreative genre as smartphone endless runners.


  1. I see no other option but to be cynical and assume that is exactly why Sony made the decision on the BluRay player.

    As for Nintendo, I hesitate to expect great things from Nintendo based on Pokemon Go’s success since, as far as I know, their only role in that project was to smile and nod. If anything, the Ghastly state of Miitomo is the bar which Nintendo has set for itself in its mobile high Jinx, and it seems to me that has already grown too Drowzee to be bothered with any attempt to raise it. I fully expect them to just add more trash to the mediocrity heap for mobile users to Weedle through while taking a Squirtle.

    As for VR, that there is still a breath of life in that dead horse, even if it is a death rattle, is the only amazing thing about it. It’s like watching someone keep a family member alive in the hospital as a vegetable.

  2. Did you hear that *plunk* sound?

    That was the sound of the VR turd falling into the Toilet o’ Fads.

    Flush it, boys.

  3. The moment when VR lost all viability was the moment when arcades started to die. I think that VR was a legitimate technology for the arcade, where you could put a couple of dollars down and experience video games in a whole new way – but all that ended when the arcades did. People do not wish to put hundreds of dollars down for a curio which makes gaming a more complicated process.

    VR enthusiasts are still saying that VR will win out because of pornography. People watch pornography on the computer because it is the absolute path of least resistance. People are not going to want to strap themselves into a helmet before they go surfing the web for porn just to rub one out. Can you even imagine the horrors of pop-up adds when they appear three centimeters away from your retina? Check out my sweet porn set-up bro! No.

    The funniest part of all of this has been watching Oculus Rift buying up exclusivity on VR titles, since the absolute last thing that these people should be trying to do is harm the competition and turn consumers off of the idea of VR. They should be trying to help one another, but have instead taken to cannibalism.

    Hilariously, the people with the most riding on the success of Playstation VR at the moment are not Sony, and they are not Sony fans or Sony shareholders – rather they are anyone with any kind of stake in Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Gear VR etc, since it is literally the last hope they will have for the continued production of VR software.

  4. So I own a HTC Vive. Why not? It’s a premium piece of hardware (well, in terms of price), but I think it has good novelty value. But I’m hardly the average consumer, here. I could afford the high price to entry without having to subsist of beans and sawdust for a month or two.

    VR can totally be a thing, but we’re probably still several tech cycle iterations away from it being a majority consumer thing.

    Here’s why.

    First, while the visuals and experiences are impressive for what they are, it’s still too fiddly. I can never find a comfortable medium between just wearing the headset and reading text (which is a pain because I am very, very slightly nearsighted) and having to try to fit my glasses underneath (which results in more trouble because it’s almost like wearing bifocals). Maybe some different frames would help, but I’m not sacrificing my stylish frames (hint: they’re not stylish) to fit on the headset.

    Text-reading issues and some screen door effect aside, in big swaths, the technology is there. I’ve had some really cool gaming and experiences with the Vive. But it’s not… there-there. It really needs a lot of big developer push to adopt the platform, and that will never be a thing until the price comes down and the hardware required to deliver a good experience becomes commonplace. Sure, I get a good experience out of it, but I’ve also got two absurdly high-end video cards in my PC running under custom-water cooling. I’m at the very tip top of “niche.”

    The other issue is the motion sickness. Some games I could play for hours without any effect; others I get maybe 5 minutes before my stomach is heaving and I have a headache. Then again, I am prone to motion sickness (I find it discomforting to ride anywhere but the front of a car, for example). Regardless, I can sit in front of my monitor for half a damn day; I am not sure I can do that with the current generation of VR headset.

    Where I see the technology showing the most promise is in providing another type of display for entertainment, not necessarily 3D VR games. I would love a headset that is small enough and light enough that can be driven off my phone or tablet to watch a movie while I’m on a plane or sitting up in bed on a lazy Sunday. I think the HMD has promise, even if VR does not, once people figure out the “comfort” part of the equation (something more like glasses than the current robo-face displays).

    To give an example, one of the most fun experiences in the HTC Vive lineup (besides space cockpit games, which, let’s face it, are always demoed because they obviously work the best) is the Cloudlands Mini Golf. In some sort of an augmented reality setup, this could actually be a lot of fun — turn your living room into a miniature golf course! It’d be fun for parties. As it stands, the game, while fun, is devilishly difficult and the VR headset gets taxing after a while, especially when you’re craning your head down. Another actually cool experience is the ocean floor experience (I can remember the title). The creatures are well rendered and the scenes interesting to look at. It feels little like scuba diving or snorkeling.

    With the proper amount of motivation (read: $$$) good developers might be able to expand on these proof-of-concept ideas to make something actually worthwhile. However, the HTC Vive iteration 1 and Oculus Rift iteration 1 are not it.

    Ten, fifteen years from now, I would expect augmented reality glasses to totally be a thing, connected to superpowerful phablet devices in our pockets that connect to a widespread global low-latency data network. I do not expect VR to continue to get the sort of development it needs to continue as a viable medium in that time, however.

    But for now, my HTC Vive is a cool parlor trick, and I’m fine with that being all it ever is.

  5. I want something that will project 3D holograms into my living room without having to wear glasses. Until then I’m not really interested.

  6. Theoretically that technology exists now, it’s just monstrously expensive and no one has developed anything for it.

  7. VR has a huge issue that it can’t overcome. It’s completely solitary. VR is fine for a 20s something guy living alone in an apartment, but for everyone else it doesn’t work. I have a wife and 2 kids, how do you think a VR headset is going to go over in our house? Let me lay out a hypothetical scenario. I get a fancy VR head set, spend 2 hours setting it up while my wife gets annoyed that I spent 2 hours setting it up, my kids watch eager to try themselves, I test it for 10 seconds and then hand it to the kid who wants to try, then they fight over it, crying begins because they can’t share the experience at the same time, finally I get to actually try it after the kids have been some how magically distracted, and my wife gets pissed because I can’t hear her when she comes to nag me about random bullshit.

  8. My wife does like the Vive feature where it will interrupt whatever you’re doing to show a text message.

    But then again, it’s not used enough to really make it worthwhile. But the first time someone comes over, it’s the coolest thing in the house for like ten minutes.

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