VR Becomes a Failed Technology for the Second Time
Several weeks back Caspius.com 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 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.
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.