Gaming: Why VR is not suited for its origin use case

How will the Virtual Reality (VR) trend continue? It is impossible to predict, but many opinion makers try to convince the tech world that it will be either the next big thing or a total failure.

Insights on VR & Gaming

Instead of making a prediction, I want to tell you about my experience with VR and its use cases – especially gaming. In 2015, I played around with the Oculus Rift for a lot of time, which lead to four essential insights on VR:

  1. VR may stimulate your visual and acoustic stimuli, but not the most important stimulus for gaming.
    The most important stimulus for immersive gameplay is your sense of balance. As long as there is no way to treat that stimulus effectively, most games (FPS, RPGs, … – i.e. all games where the player moves around in an environment) will lead to simulator/VR sickness. In my opionion, only a few games will profit from immersion (e.g. flight and space simulations, where the user has a fixed point like cockpit instruments in its field of view, which reduces sickness).

    Feeling dizzy yet?

  2. The decision of buying VR technology is a trade-off between immersion quality and money.
    VR comes in many forms. You can experience discount VR on your smartphone (as long as your battery lasts) or you can invest in a whole VR battle station with the latest immersion technology and the most powerful hardware. Latter is a efficient way to waste money on a thing that makes you sick (see 1.).

  3. Head-Mounted-Displays (HMDs) are inconvenient.
    HMDs are the most common way to implement VR – and they really suck. People with glasses have problems wearing them, others sweat when wearing them. But the major argument IMHO seems to be the weight of an HMD, which makes wearing them really uncomfortable.

    Immersion at its best.

  4. Immersive interaction with a VR environment is non-trivial.
    There are plenty of ways to interact with a VR environment. When using simple XBOX controllers while wearing an HMD, immersion gets lost. Using a technology like LeapMotion (+ HMD) may be rather intuitive/immersive but is extremely unreliable (motion recognition), which excludes use cases like competitive online games. It seems that there is no one-fits-all pattern for interaction.

… So, Is VR aN EPIC failure?

As inadequate as I consider VR for gaming, as suitable I consider VR as a platform for marketing and brands:

I spent a lot of time with VR during my bachelor thesis, which was all about VR’s potential in a marketing context. I have built a web-based VR Car Configuration System for Mercedes-Benz (props to WebVR, AngularJS, LeapMotion & Oculus VR) and evaluated the effect of that system on consumers in a controlled experiment. To cut a long story short: I found out, that VR has a huge potential for marketing and brands, because the technology perfectly fits on the use case:

  1. Maximum usage time of 2-20 minutes (minor inconvenience through an HMD)
  2. No user motion necessary (prevents motion sickness -> results from my research)
  3. Immersive experience of a brand and its products (better than a plain 2D web application -> results from my research)
  4. Reliability of the interaction is a minor point (immersive but unreliable technologies like LeapMotion can be used)
  5. For a simple VR advertisment, hardware requirements are not that high (can be used on smartphones)
  6. At least for the next few months, VR creates a certain “Wow” effect when using it the first time (-> results from my research), which may promote the impact of the advertised brand (this advantage will eventually fade away with the rise of VR)

(For more about VR & advertising, check this)

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