A Future For VR?

The month of February has challenged the WALL JUMP team: The return of the Nintendo Direct presentation. A half-assed declaration of abandonment from Google Stadia. The still unsatisfactory availability of PlayStation 5 consoles in stores. What is there to talk about? The answer came unexpectedly: while consumers are still praying for a successful PlayStation 5 order, Sony unexpectedly announced a follow-up system to the PlayStation VR. But does virtual reality even have a future in gaming?

“Somehow virtual reality has never been the PlayStation VR’s problem.”

Matthias Mirlach

I am an owner of a PlayStation VR – but somehow not a proud one. Sure, the very first wow-effect was great. Right in the middle of the game instead of just being there! And yet, I hardly ever took the headset out of its box after the first few weeks. Much worse: I even bought games like the celebrated Astrobot and then never played them. Still, the announcement of a new pair of VR goggles for the PlayStation 5 sent me into a state of euphoria. But why?

Well, somehow virtual reality has never been the PlayStation VR’s problem. Instead, everything else: An incredible cable clutter with numbered strings and a breakout box. Heavy glasses that get annoying after a few minutes. Mediocre controls with the PlayStation 3 technology of the Move controllers. No wonder, then, that the still very low-detail announcement of the successor system mainly pointed out that you can now connect the PSVR2 with only one wire (!).

However, the promise of immediate immersion in virtual realities still holds for me: Thanks to the stronger hardware of the PlayStation 5 and modern VR glasses, the teething troubles of the first generation should be eradicated. And the studios have more experience and examples of what VR games should look like. After all, VR thrives on its own gaming experiences, not on bonus modes in blockbusters. We haven’t even seen what VR is capable of today – but I definitely want to experience it! And, as a console-only gamer, I hope I’ll finally be able to play Half Life: Alyx.

“Deep down, I continue to believe in this technology, but not in its mass viability in the next five years.”

Thomas Steuer

For how many years now has virtual reality been hailed as the technology of the future? I wonder when this great vision of the future will finally become the present. Other than a vague announcement with detail improvements like fewer cables and a new controller, Sony has held back so much with this announcement that I wondered if it was even necessary at this point. “With the new headset, players will experience an even greater sense of presence and be more immersed in their game worlds.” What’s that even supposed to mean?

In my previous test runs with VR, I always found the low resolution to be the biggest drawback. When immersing myself in the VR gaming experience, I usually feel like someone put a pot of porridge over my head. Is the 4K resolution of the new consoles enough to guarantee more pleasant views? Or will it eben take 8K (or more), which will ultimately be paid for with measly performance?

This technology certainly appeals to me. I’m attracted by exclusive titles, like Half Life: Alyx, which have been designed only for virtual reality. I’m also attracted to Tetris Effect, which in combination with VR and surround sound can certainly become a much-described festival for the senses. But I still don’t see lots of these titles, but rather notice the occasional blockbuster game that somehow has a VR mode superimposed on it, which no one really needs to enjoy the game. I ask myself, where is the focus on this technology? Where are the system sellers for this sinfully expensive peripheral?

Deep down, I continue to believe in this technology, but not in its mass viability in the next five years. For that, I think it needs steady software support with an exclusive touch, a low-threshold entry price, wireless hardware, and a resolution that doesn’t inject migraines into my synapses as a side effect.

This post is also available in: German