The world will get virtual reality headsets in 2016, but unless you’re a VR enthusiast with a fat wallet, it’s probably not a good idea for you to buy one. Here’s why.
1. It sure isn’t cheap
Oculus is the only big VR headset maker that’s announced a price, and ouch — you could practically hear gamers’ wallets crying out in pain. It starts shipping on March 28, and will cost $600. That’s a lot of money, especially considering that you need a pricy gaming PC in order to use the thing.
You can see the recommended specs here, but if you buy an Oculus Rift along with a PC capable of running it, you’re looking at spending at least $1,500. That’s a big ask for a piece of technology that has yet to prove itself in the marketplace.
It’s clear that high-end VR in 2016 is for enthusiasts with money to burn — not average people with a mild interest.
2. The price will come down in the future
Like all consumer electronics, VR headsets will decrease in price in the coming years. By way of example, the first Amazon Kindle e-book reader debuted for $400 in 2008; now you can get one for $80. When the PlayStation 3 went on the market in 2005, it cost $600; now it retails for just $200.
The same thing will happen with VR headsets, but it will take a few years.
3. VR experiences will only get better with time
Better yet, as the prices of VR headsets go down, the experience will get better. The dawn of any new technology is like a Wild West for software developers. They’ll be tinkering with different control styles and game types to figure out what works and what doesn’t for VR games and apps. Which also means there’s going to be a lot of bad software before we get a lot of good software.
A good analogy is the iOS App Store circa 2008. Early on, it was clogged with games that were hard to control and apps that made fart sounds. Once developers got used to making software for touchscreens, and once consumers grew tired of fart apps, things improved. Expect VR apps to go through similar growing pains. What you’ll be able to do on Oculus Rift in 2017 and 2018 will be much better.
4. The winners have yet to emerge
The other important thing to remember is that the Oculus Rift isn’t the only VR headset in the game. The HTC Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR headset are coming out this year as well. Each one will have its own pros, cons, and exclusive software.
As with any war, there will be winners and losers. There’s a good chance at least one of the headsets will fail, and new competitors will enter the fray. The real winners will be the consumers who wait to see which one has the best chance of surviving before putting down their money.
Virtual reality is going to be a big story in 2016, and lots of people are going to have a blast trying out the new technology. But for most people, buying in this year is not the wisest choice.