Should You Buy VR Headsets Yet or Wait Longer?

VR is here in a big way. In 2016 a whole bunch of products was released in the high-end VR market and even one of the major game console makers has released its own entrant to the market. Does that mean the time is right for regular people to buy VR headsets?

Let’s look at some of the reasons you might NOT want to buy VR headsets quite yet.

It’s Expensive to Buy VR Headsets

Let’s not kid ourselves, VR headsets are luxury items in the same way that gaming consoles are. In the future, they might become a mainstream way to access content, but for now, you’ll have to fork out hundreds of dollars in order to have the privilege of owning one.

The problem is that the current generation of VR products is still paying off the research and development costs their makers incurred. We see the same thing with any new consumer product.

TVs have dropped 96% in real price terms over the last 70 or so years. New technologies like 4K and HDR come around and push things up for a while but after a few years, those sets are cheap again too.

VR headset components and designs will go through the same thing, so unless the price doesn’t bother you now may not be the right time to buy.

Hidden Costs

buy VR headsets

VR headset like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are no standalone products. They require that you have a pretty powerful PC to work properly.

Oculus lowered those requirements in 2016 already and mid-range PC will exceed the high-end requirements in the near future. So unless you already bought a kickass PC recently the cost of putting together a VR setup is astronomical.

Then you also have to think about optional extras such as motion controllers and room-scale VR setups where you can walk around. It’s all adds up very quickly:

  • VR Headset
  • Controller
  • New PC
  • External sensor kits

There may even be more!

The Good Software is Still Coming

Developers are still getting their heads around developing for VR. The rules of what makes a good VR game or experience are not yet set in stone. Developers had decades perfect the experience on a 2D or even 3D screen.

Total immersion is not something many creators have experiences of. So if you spend all that money on VR now you may be disappointed to find that there just aren’t that many good VR software titles to be had. With a few exceptions.

Hopefully, with Sony’s push to get people to buy VR headsets from them for their Playstations, we’ll see more titles that can be ported to PC. For now, because the headset install base is so small, there’s just not that much incentive to develop anything.

We’re still waiting for that one killer app that will sell a whole bunch of VR headsets. Once people decide to buy VR headsets en mass the other developers will get on board.

The Tech Could Be Better

Don’t get me wrong, the tech in these headsets are amazing. The thing is, it’s clear how they could be better.

One of the main issues is the resolution of the screens. While the pixel density is pretty high, it’s often still possible to see the “chicken wire effect”, making the VR world look a little fuzzy and fake. Apart from this, it can just be hard to make out fine details in general.

LCD and OLED technology is sure to improve pixel densities to the point where we won’t have those issues anymore. For now, the current generation headsets are still saddled with low-res visuals.

There are other problems too. Current premium-VR systems are tethered with cables for one thing. That limits the sorts of experiences you can have.

The FoV or “field of vision” is also irritatingly narrow. Human vision stretches about 180 degrees horizontally. Premium VR usually sits at about 110 degrees. So it’s a little like wearing a dive mask or horse blinders.

VR headsets are also still pretty bulky, although they are FAR better than 90s headsets that were true monstrosities.

The Early Bird Gets the Bugs

It’s the early adopter’s curse: bugs.

If you buy these first-generation modern VR headsets you are also acting as a bug net. You will experience everything that’s still wrong with consumer VR and will be fixed in the second generation.

Unless you know that you’ll upgrade to the next generation of VR headsets when they arrive, it seems like a bad idea to be stuck with the first attempt at proper consumer VR.

Don’t buy VR headsets not if you don’t like the idea of paying to be a beta tester.

No Standards

Remember VHS vs Betamax? Remember BluRay and HD DVD? There still isn’t an agreed-upon standard for VR headsets and that means you may be buying something that won’t work with future software titles down the line.

That means if you buy VR headsets now, you have to prepare yourself for the possibility that your expensive new toy may be obsolete very quickly.

Better Products are Almost Here

The biggest issue has to be the fact that we already know about better VR headsets that will be released in the next year or so. They will provide better resolution, wireless options and much wider fields of view.

We don’t know if they’ll be less expensive yet, but there is going to be at least one more big leap in VR headset technology before things settle down.

Patience is a Virtue

In the end, you either want VR so badly that none of these points matter or you are on the fence and want to think about it. I’d never tell someone not to buy the tech they really want, but having the facts is important. Especially when we’re talking about this sort of cash.

If you are going to buy VR headsets, let me know in the comments why you’re pulling the trigger. Be sure to also look over the requirements for VR¬†and the modern graphics card market.


Images are Public Domain


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