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Were the critics right: Is VR just a Fad/Gimmick?

Level 15
I have spent more time "lurking" instead of "contributing" to VR discussions this year, between this forum, reddit, and the Facebook groups. I have found myself wanting to do more observing and reflecting in 2019, as opposed to the active contributions I was making from 2016-2019. And a big part of that is because the overall VR landscape seems rather stale in comparison to the amazing strides made during the first 3 years of the CV1 era (speaking to both the original Rift and Vive here).

In 2018, it really felt like things were going to explode from some galactic battle of the VR Giants with everyone promising to "move VR forward" and "set a new standard." But as far as I can tell, every competitor has failed at truly moving the needle beyond the hype coming out of the 2016 CV1 releases:
  • Apple still hasn't done anything meaningful in VR.
  • Amazon has only dabbled in VR with some supportive Software.
  • The Pimax 8K proved to be little more than an over-hyped kickstarter (this HMD is now selling in droves on E-bay).
  • Valve's Index HMD proved to be "more of the same" and Valve Knuckles completely failed to meet the 2+ years of hype leading up to it. While I would agree that the Index is, overall, the best PCVR offering on the market today, this is only true because of the failures of its competitors; not because of the advances Index is making.
  • HTC Vive Pro is all but obsolete. Rarely, if ever advertised, and now all attention is being pointed towards the next "dangling carrot," the Vive Cosmos.
  • Facebook and Oculus failed to deliver a true Rift CV2, and their biggest claim to fame - the Oculus Quest - continues to offer a very limited software Library, much of which mimics what Rift users can already experience.
  • After all these years, the Steam Hardware Survey still shows Oculus and Vive dominating the charts, with a minuscule number of competitors dangling at the bottom.
  • The HP Reverb had great potential (even I considered buying one) but fell short in multiple areas compared to current offerings and general industry standards.
  • Microsoft continues to dabble between Mixed Reality and HoloLens; with no flagship hardware nor a noteworthy software platform.
  • PlayStationVR continues to linger, with little confirmation about a Gen 2 VR Kit; leaving communities to debate over interpretations of hidden signs of the truth.
  • On the mobile front, GearVR and GO are slowly becoming vaporware. While Hulu drops support for Google DayDream.

These are my own personal observations based on my own sentiment and that of which I've observed across multiple VR communities. I will point out that the purpose of this thread is not to fuel a debate between VR products or competitors. I am putting every VR organization, sector, and product on the chopping block evenhandedly. In a nutshell: they are all failing to meet expectations in 2019.

There are a few other factors that has caused me to raise my concern about VR turning in to a Fad/Gimmick:
  • AAA Software is still nowhere to be found. With VR, at best we get "AAA-like" experiences. Even AAA games like Skyrim and Fallout turn out to be "AAA-like" in VR. This lack of true AAA investment seems telling since we are nearly 4 years in to mainstream VR with no one feeling compelled to make the necessary investments to move out of "AAA-like" experiences. In fact, we are still getting Early Access software experiences on both Steam and the Oculus Store.
  • Facility-based VR is becoming talked about more and more, which feels like a sign that VR is moving in to the fad/gimmick phase of modern arcades and internet cafes. I tried one of these VR "arcade rides" recently, and I can confirm that the experience is highly lackluster and does more to move VR in to a "gimmick" than a sophisticated platform. As a comparison, once upon a time we could play the Street Fighter arcade with Punching Pads instead of standard buttons. As we can clearly see... punching a pad never became a standard and was short lived. And if you see a game today that uses Punching Pads... you understand that this is a temporary fad/gimmick. Machines that move or vibrate while putting players in a VR HMD are the exact same thing.
  • Augmented Reality is becoming a hotter topic than Virtual Reality this year. We have HoloLens 2 and Microsoft's move in to the Military Sector. Recently, 5-Nights at Freddy's released their AR trailer. On top of which, most of the predictions about the upcoming Oculus Conference revolve around Augmented Reality (i.e. people are feeling that AR will get a big push and stronger focus).
Again, these are just my observations and general sentiments to help give insight in to why I feel that asking the question about VR's fad/gimmick potential seems pertinent at this moment in time.

To give some thought as to why I am choosing the words "fad" and "gimmick," here is a quick view at outside sources:
An article from 2018
Is Virtual Reality a Fad or Is it the Future?

A blog from 2019
Virtual Reality is officially a fad. I am out

An article from 2016
Virtual Reality Is Just An Over-Priced Gimmick, Nothing More

A recent article from 2019
Virtual Reality: The Future of Entertainment or Gimmick of the Wealthy?

Each of these articles, both old and new, point out similar factors that I've outlined here.

So... do you think that VR is still "the future"? Or do you think that VR did in fact turn out to be a Fad/Gimmick??
226 REPLIES 226

Level 8
It's all about money and time, that's it. Someone has to bite the bullet and fork over cash for AAA titles that rival PS4 exclusives. Then PC VR will shine. Until that happens, we are in a long haul to greatness. 

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I think whether VR gets written off as a gimmick depends on what the developers do with it. If I'm perfectly honest, and despite my general enthusiasm for VR, there hasn't been a ton of VR-specific content that I've
found really compelling lately. I've been putting a lot of hours into
No Man's Sky and having a good time, but that's less to do with VR than that it's
a fun game. I haven't tried it in flat mode, but I might enjoy that
just as much. Likewise with Fallout 4 VR; I love Fallout 4, and I had already put almost 500 hours into the flat version, but after 40 hours of VR, I didn't feel driven to continue--it was the same game, and playing it in VR didn't add that much to the experience.

What I've most enjoyed in VR for
were the games/apps that really took advantage of doing stuff that
wouldn't work on a monitor; sculpting with my hands in Medium,
scrambling for the disc in Echo Arena, and physical coordination
challenges like playing table tennis in Eleven, shooting pistols in Gun
Club, or completing a full combo in Beat Saber. Those kind of games make
a stronger case for VR than just ports of AAA shooters. If that's all we
get, then VR does start to feel gimmicky.

We'll see what gets announced at OC6 (I'm still quite keen to hear what Respawn has been working on), but without games built to take advantage of VR's strengths, just playing the same old games with a 360° view is less exciting than it was back in 2014.

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Level 8
@nalex66 What are "VR strengths" besides more physical interaction and immersion ?

For me personally VR always wins due to higher immersion factor than pancake games. Not everyone has plenty of space to move around in a room-scale setup and swing arms around. A lot of times playing games with physical interactions is quite problematic for people with small play areas. 

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I'm saying it's not a fad but VR take-up is painfully slow.. only now breaking 1% of Steam users. I know how unreliable that figure may be as an absolute measure but the rate of change is probably reasonably accurate.

I've said previously that maybe 5% is when developers other than those invested in VR will stop ignoring it as a platform, and that seems to be a long way off right now.

3 of 4 super involving titles per year is all I really need to be happy but at the moment I'm refusing to go too far with the Fallout main quest so I can make it last as long as possible because I'm not sure what will grab me in the same way when I'm done with it. Flight simming probably would but I'd need a 2080ti to come close to using my P3D software I bought a year ago and hardly touched.

Monitor gaming had maybe 10 releases per year that I could lose myself in and now VR has made me, at least partly, lose interest in those too.

Edit: I need to get back into Medium, that software is uniquely brilliant and uniquely VR. I just need to improve my abilities with it.

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Level 15
I see it as a grave injustice for VR to end up as a fad/gimmick. But the industry seems so far away from proving itself as a mature platform beyond gaming and entertainment.

For example, I thought that Virtual Reality would be mainstream in the real estate industry by now, but the truth is that the traditional way of showcasing images and videos for both Homes and Commercial real estate remains the leading market strategy. And those trying to lead in VR Real Estate are the same people trying to break through since the early days (e.g. Matterport).

No matter which industry we look at where VR has been introduced, it only functions as an "extra tool" as opposed to a "leading innovation." It currently feels more like a "nice to have" as opposed to a "must have." Compared to other products or services that feel like a "must have," such as: Smart Phones, The Internet.

Although using those examples... it did take many years before the Telephone became the Smart Phone, and it took years before the Internet was a service that could be brought to your home. So perhaps VR is going to need just as much time?

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I'm undecided but and a big but....where it has gone and hopefully going with Flight sims is huge for me. I had no expectations until the day I first put on a DK2 and went "inside" a sim.....jaw dropped and no looking back to monitors. I thought things would be further forward by now but tech seems to have stalled IMO I still smile when putting on a Reverb or a CV1 or my Go...I am hoping that things will take off but I'm doubtful 😞
A PC with lots of gadgets inside and a thing to see in 3D that you put on your head.

Level 15

motorsep said:

@nalex66 What are "VR strengths" besides more physical interaction and immersion ?

Most of the VR Experiences are still designed from the perspective of traditional "flat" interactions. We simply moved the camera from a flat screen to your face. But VR allows us to think in ways far beyond basic human interaction. VR's strengths are that it is "limitless" since we can start to interact with things just by looking at them, in combination to what we do with our heads, hands, and voice. And when we perfect brain-to-computer interfacing, we can add "thought patterns" to that list and take far more advantage of these breakthroughs in a VR space than a flat screen.

To me, the only experiences that attempt to give us a glimpse of VR's unique strengths are:
  1. Superhot
  2. FORM
I'm sure there's another exception or two, but those are the first that come to mind.

With Superhot, having to move your eyeballs without moving your head as part of a winning strategy is hilarious, and pushes the boundaries of traditional experiences. With FORM, this puzzler takes full advantage of the power of combining sight, sound, and presence as a necessity to overcome obstacles; beyond simply thinking about a solution and clicking a bunch of stuff.

Most other experiences have simply "moved the screen" and "moved the peripherals." They are still amazing due to VR's default advantage of presence and immersion. But VR's strengths go far beyond that.

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I wonder how many VR users (myself included) haven't used their headsets to the full VR potentials ?
A PC with lots of gadgets inside and a thing to see in 3D that you put on your head.

Level 8

I still don't see "VR strengths" from your watered down description 🙂 Moving eyeballs without moving head is basically what one does playing FPS games on flat screen, or when solving puzzles, or trying to locate pick-ups in a environmentally dense games. So, no, moving eyeballs and not head isn't unique to VR 😉

VR is not putting flat screen to your eyes per se, because you move monitor closer to you face, you can't turn your head and look around the corner. So any VR game with first person perspective will have that physicality to it.

At this point VR is just a next step in gaming, in some cases of entertainment and in some cases of enterprise sector. VR games are a way more immersive when it's a 6DoF VR with proper positional audio than pancake games.

So to me, VR is not a fad simply because it's the next step in gaming evolution. It's not because of "VR strengths that go beyond that", because in gaming, they don't.

As far as real estate, well, if you don't have HMD and you don't know how to use VR fluently, it's going to be a hindrance. It's so much easier to browse through images. Eventually, when almost everyone has HMD (6DoF preferably), VR Real Estate will be the thing.