Around a decade ago, Oculus changed the outlook of digital entertainment when it launched a Kickstarter for its VR headsets. At the time, VR was still supposed to be the next ‘big thing’ in gaming and beyond. For decades, films and TV shows that covered the future imagined an era when people would don headsets and step into fully virtual worlds.
Anyone who has followed VR tech in the last decade knows what folly this was. While hundreds of millions in investment have been poured into VR projects of all stripes—from entertainment to education—most homes are still without VR technology. From hardware to software, VR (and even AR) hasn’t quite panned out the way many had hoped. Even the more recent attempts at launching various metaverses have stalled.
Still, while 2022 was considered a ‘plateau year’ for VR technology, it now looks like the industry is starting to focus. In other words, there seem to be concrete applications for VR equipment.
Let’s cover some projects that are currently in the works, along with 2023’s biggest successes (so far).
A Vision for the Future
VR is becoming more common because it’s more accessible. Today, headsets run the full gamut, allowing gamers to choose an option that is affordable and suitable for the tech they already have. As VR headsets start to become household items, like a PC or next-gen console, more developers are zeroing in on the tech.
One standout industry is casino gaming, also referred to as iGaming. Worldwide, virtual platforms are the most common way for gamers to access their favorite card and table games, from slots to blackjack to roulette. Globe Newswire predicts that the online gaming market will grow to a worth of over $88 billion this year. For context, that’s around one quarter of the market size of traditional video games in 2023 ($384 billion), including mobile titles.
So, looking ahead, iGamers might be able to step into fully virtual casino lobbies. So far, the only well-established group to create a VR gaming experience was PokerStars. However, in the future, other casino giants are also likely to pivot toward VR tech.
2023’s Standout Successes
The iGaming industry is set to explode onto the VR scene in the coming years. For the time being, however, most publications are focused on emerging titles and technology. In other words, they’re keeping tabs on the best headsets and the most innovative VR titles on the market.
For example, PC Mag and GamesRadar continually update their Top Headsets lists. The publication favors the Meta Quest 2 as a standalone VR headset, along with the Sony PlayStation VR2 thanks to its eye-tracking tech and large library of games. GamesRadar lists the latter as its top option, followed by the HTC Vive Pro 2 for its resolution. For gamers, the top option is the PSVR2 because it was developed specifically with game mechanics in mind.
As headsets become more differentiated and specialized (and, ideally, affordable), so do the games offered. For now, gamers can’t access VR titles from a PC or console. In fact, one downfall of the PSVR2 is that it doesn’t actually pair with PlayStation games. Clearly, there are a few hurdles left to tackle.
But driving user interest is the number of critically acclaimed games available only on VR. These include ports like Half-Life: Alyx and Skyrim, along with original hits like No Man’s Sky and Beat Saber. This year, gamers are keeping a lookout for upcoming hits like Aliens and Assassin’s Creed Nexus. Both popular franchises are planning to release VR games either later this year or in early 2024.
So far, we’ve covered some of the top headsets, games, and future pathways for VR games. But one simple way to investigate the industry is simply to follow the money. And when it comes to VR, big money hasn’t come from the gaming industry as so many predicted. Instead, wealth has come from more than a few unexpected streams, including education (through gamification), museums, and projects in the metaverse.
First, gamification as education has proved popular. In fact, the earliest variations of VR were designed to minimize risk when teaching students difficult tasks, from performing surgery to flying planes. This continues to this day. Many companies, including sports franchises, use VR technology to help educate and train employees and/or students.
Second, museums and similar cultural institutions have begun using VR to add new dimensions to their exhibits. In other words, visitors are able to don a VR headset (sometimes even remotely from their homes) in order to add more depth, complexity, and texture to a certain topic. The same is true for AR, which can usually be accessed from a smartphone.
Lastly, the metaverse created a space for individuals to spearhead their own unique VR projects. For example, Paris Hilton launched Paris World on the Roblox platform. Paris World lets fans dive into her fashion world and play games to win unique experiences. In a similar vein, Snoop Dogg recently shot a music video in the metaverse, aka the ‘Snoopverse’.
Challenges for the Future
So far, we’ve outlined a broad overview of VR technology in 2023. Clearly, the future of the industry is going to be more innovative and imaginative than early analysts predicted—and these new projects are going to help steer the future of gaming, specifically. However, there are still quite a few challenges for VR creators.
First and foremost, VR is more accessible than ever before—but it’s still not overly affordable for gamers. And diehard gamers who have played on their PC or Xbox for years might not see the point in paying upwards of $500 for the PSVR2 or Oculus Quest 2. In other words, do gamers really want VR?
Second, consumers still lack faith in VR. Early hardware proved to be buggy, either in terms of visual lag or else faulty peripherals like handsets. Coupled with concerns about pricing, this makes many view VR gaming with suspicion. In other words, anyone on the fence about hefty prices is likely to avoid VR altogether when coming on the back of functionality concerns.