2016 has truly become the year of virtual reality, as we’ve finally begun to see headsets and games announced and released. The market hasn’t quite taken its full form yet, but we’re getting an idea of what VR is all about. So here’s an early look at the most promising devices and the games that have been revealed.
Oculus Rift – Oculus is still the biggest name in this industry, because it’s really the headset that started all the excitement about in-home VR. The device (which is owned by Facebook but was developed privately) is now available for $599, ships with an Xbox controller, and operates via connecting to a strong PC (which is sold separately). Considered to be one of the most high-powered VR headsets on the market, Oculus figures to be an industry leader as long as its price doesn’t become a problem.
HTC Vive – With names like Facebook, Microsoft, Samsung and Sony involved in VR, it may be surprising to some to see HTC in the mix. Yet, its Vive is considered to be on par with Oculus in terms of specs and performance, and one review for the Oculus Rift noted that the Vive seemed more impressive visually. Also meant to operate with a PC, the Vive comes at a higher price point of $799.
PlayStation VR – If you really delve into tech specs, the PlayStation VR may not quite be as powerful as the Oculus or Vive. However, it’s still expected to have a great display and has a few substantial advantages. Most notably, it operates alongside a PS4, has a built-in foundation for potential gaming franchises, and will reportedly cost only $399. The PlayStation VR is expected to come out in the fall (just in time for holiday sales).
Samsung Gear VR – The Gear VR is basically a simplified version of a VR headset, but that may just make it the most popular one—at least in the early going. Really, this is just a $99 headset into which you can fit a Samsung phone. The phone becomes the display and really powers the whole experience, resulting in a simple and very accessible VR option (at least for those with Samsung devices). Naturally, it’s not as powerful or awe-inspiring as the larger headsets, but it may be the most consumer-friendly option.
Tilt Brush – Many have heard that there is now a VR version of Minecraft, and that very concept sets the stage for VR games that are as much about creativity as traditional gameplay. Minecraft has the advantage of building on an extraordinarily popular existing concept, but Tilt Brush will be a more original creative experience. Exclusively for the HTC Vive right now (but owned by Google), this game allows you to create 3D neon drawings that you can walk in and among. It may not be what some gamers are looking for, but it has the potential to set the tone for a new kind of experience on VR.
CasinoVR – Looking to capitalize on a casino gaming industry that has grown so sophisticated as to include HD games and interactive components online, CasinoVR brings poker to VR headsets. Whereas the better online platforms include games with various themes and special live options, this first attempt on VR focuses exclusively on poker, but does so in a smooth and immersive manner. Given the enthusiasm of online poker and casino players worldwide, it would seem to be one of the more promising early VR titles.
Final Fantasy XIV – We really don’t know a whole lot about Final Fantasy XIV other than that it will be compatible with PlayStation VR. But that alone makes it one of the most intriguing titles we’ve seen, given that there aren’t many established franchises heading to VR just yet. Plus, imagining a virtual Final Fantasy world is simply astounding.
VR Karts: Sprint – It’s commonly suggested that piloting games (racing or even flying) will work very well for VR because of the cockpit-centered nature of the action. But while many of the most ambitious VR titles are striving for detail and realistic environments, the playful VR Karts: Sprint might be the most promising racing game. That’s because it’s made very much in the image of Mario Kart, and could capture the attention of countless fans of that iconic racing series.
Eve: Valkyrie – Set in the established Eve Online multiplayer universe, this game may be out in front of every other planned shooter for VR. Already released for PS4 and Windows, it was a fairly successful launch title for the Oculus and will accompany the PlayStation VR’s release as well. As more people buy VR headsets and games, this could set the tone for how shooters will look on the devices.
Clearly this post only covered a handful of games, and there are many that have been announced and/or released that will have significant impacts on the development of VR. There are even additional headsets available beyond those described in this article. But these selections, in both equipment and games, should give you an idea of how VR is shaping up in its early days.