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Virtual reality is incredible, but that doesn't mean you should buy a Rift or Vive yet

Hayden Dingman | April 18, 2016
Virtual reality is still an expensive first-generation product, with kinks and software support to work out.

...Especially not when you just bought an $800 headset. I don’t really need to harp on this again, but I bring it up only to show that it’s the factor that feeds into all these others.

The more virtual reality costs, the harder it is to justify a weak launch lineup. The more it costs, the harder it is to accept needing to upgrade the same hardware two years from now. And so on and so forth.

Hopefully we’ll see the second generation of Rift/Vive hardware launch at a more general-population-friendly price, because VR needs that huge user base in order to entice developers over to the platform. In the meantime, $600 or $800 is the wall, not even counting the cost of a top-end gaming PC. That’s the hump you need to get people over.

And it’s a high hump.

6) The unknowable future

I used the phrase “provided virtual reality lasts...” earlier, and that’s really the biggest question, right? How many people bought 3D televisions only to see the format fall into a ditch? How many of you had an HD-DVD collection? LaserDiscs? A Dreamcast? A Wii U?

It’s impossible to know whether virtual reality will catch on, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. What if it does come crashing down? I'm loathe to play doom and gloom, because I seriously think virtual reality is amazing technology. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have spent all these years covering it. I’d hate to see it die on the vine.

But what if?

oculus rift alt
Oculus’ made-for-VR Touch controllers won’t even be available until the end of the year.

Say VR fails to take off, that this is the last Rift we ever see and the last Vive we ever see. Where does that leave you?

Well, as millions of Kinect/Dreamcast/Zune/3D TV/Wii U owners can attest, it leaves you with a piece of plastic trash. Beloved trash! Maybe even technologically superior trash. But what use is hardware when there’s no content to take advantage?

Buying into virtual reality in 2016 means buying into a promise. Nothing else. It’s hundreds upon hundreds of dollars on faith. Faith that developers will continue to make software for a platform with a relatively meager number of users. Faith that Oculus will still be a company in a few years. Faith that Facebook won’t screw it all up. Faith that VR will eventually catch on with consumers and your years of evangelism will be justified.

It’s insanity. A particular type of insanity that caters to the aforementioned early-adopter crowd, a group that takes pride in pushing frontiers forward, that has the money and the wherewithal to back a dud occasionally without any horrible consequences.

 

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