September 15, 2016
Is virtual reality still too expensive? The answer largely depends on who you ask. Watching VR videos with Google Cardboard costs pennies (or nothing if you DIY the gizmo). Large companies don’t mind cashing out for VR as well, as some of the recent campaigns from Marriott hotel chain, Volvo, and Cirque du Soleil have proved. VR is also making its steady way to the film industry and cinemas, along with advertising.
However, if you ask an avid gamer how do they feel about the current costs of VR, the majority will say the experience is way beyond their reach right now.
The Costs of Building a VR Gaming Experience
If you are planning to build a full-fledge VR gaming environment at home, get ready to cash out. With VR gaming prices ranging from around $700 for Samsung Gear VR to over $1700 for HTC Vive, even the most passionate gamers struggle to justify whether the experience is worth it after all.
Don’t forget, buying the headset is just one line in your budget. Logical Increments has also broken down the exact costs of assembling appropriate PC hardware required for complete emersion:
- Official Oculus Recommended Specs – $800
- Corner-Cutter VR Build (the absolute minimum budget) – $600
- Solid VR Build (moderate budget option) – $1,100
- Hardcore VR Build (be prepared for the 2nd generation of games) – $1,500
- Extreme VR Build (the most immersive experience possible) – $2,400
Apart from upgrading your PC, you’ll have to invest in a relevant gaming monitor, capable of supporting high screen refresh rate, which determines the maximum frame rate you’ll be able to enjoy.
The majority of current gaming monitors, including some of the best ones, come with a 60Hz refresh rate, meaning you can see a maximum of 60 FPS, whereas both Oculus Rift and Vive require at least 90 FPS.
Additionally, don’t forget to check whether your hardware is compatible in terms of required CPU, GPU, RAM and Storage as these elements may require some updating as well.
Considering the exorbitant costs of the VR experience today, there are two possible scenarios the market will take:
- The prices will gradually decline as it happened with console gaming. After all, when Atari 2600 was released in 1977 it cost $199 (around $770 today).
- Companies will offer alternative technologies to reduce/justify the VR gaming costs. Cloud gaming is just one of the possible options here.
Cloud Gaming as the Answer to More Affordable VR
Virtual reality cloud gaming assumes rendering games in data centers, and afterwards livestreaming the rendered output directly to a user’s headset.
In this case, gamers will not have to buy powerful hardware to enjoy the experience. The price entry barrier is cut at least in three times. Additionally, cloud gaming eliminates the need to upgrade your PC every few years as the new generation of games come to the market and new VR headsets require more power.
Who’s Pioneering in VR Cloud Gaming?
Some of the major VR players have already tapped into the concept. Sony has recently launched a cloud gaming service called PlayStation Now. The company has also acquired two other cloud gaming pioneers – Gaikai and OnLive prior to that.
GameFace Labs went one step further and revealed their plans of creating an untethered VR headset that does not require a PC to function in the first place. The company plans to seize the gaming market by offering instant VR gaming experience, which does not require any kind of downloads. Their new gadget is claimed to be “twice the power of an Xbox 360, strapped to your face”.
The introduction of lightweight, standalone VR headsets and cloud gaming to pair with them may be a vital kick for accelerating faster VR adoption among the individual consumers. Up until then, you may want to enjoy VR experiences outside your home.
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