The Oculus Rift and virtual reality has been gathering an ever increasing amount of buzz going into this year. Now with all the major players just about ready to release their consumer versions, we need to take a look at where this new technology will take developers. Many indie studios are dabbling with the idea of VR, but what about the AAA studios? Will there be more jobs opening up in the near future at the big software giants?
The Price Point
Earlier this year the consumer version of the Oculus Rift went up for pre-order through their website. The device that was originally seen as the first big arrival of Virtual Reality to the masses, was grossly misjudged considering the price point was revealed to be $599.
The internet has taken to forums in droves to express their displeasure with the cost of the Oculus and have even gone so far as to totally write off the technology as being a viable platform altogether. Now the knee-jerk reactions have been a bit overstated, but let’s look at what this really means for both consumers and developers.
What Do You Actually Get For The Money?
The device will come bundled with all the necessary cables, an Xbox One controller, two games (EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale), and a remote. You can make the argument that the controller and games may inflate the price- but not by that much. If you take out all the extras and only include the Oculus and the cables, you may be looking at dropping the price by at most $100.
On top of that cost, you have to pay ANOTHER $50 for shipping! That’s right, they are not even including free shipping on the device. So after all is said and done, the question is, in the future are you willing to spend $500 on this device? Additionally one must also consider that the PC requirements to run anything at an optimal level with the Oculus would mean that your rig costs at least around $1,200.
Where does this leave developers?
For all the consumers looking at being early adopters, what can they look forward to? Right now it only appears to be small indie developers that are focusing on VR software. With the price point being so high AND the system requirements being so rigorous, this means there will be a fairly small user base at the start. Nowhere near the amount needed to get any of the larger development studios to get on board.
Young developers that are interested in the tech should be weary of the small user base. Unless your game has a niche market that appeals to the VR enthusiasts, your game will probably get lost at sea like so many others and you will have just wasted a ton of time and money. A smart move would to develop your game for monitors AND then, after you are satisfied with how it is turning out, put some time into porting the game to VR.
The Oculus Rift may be starting off on the wrong foot, but it is the first of many high profile devices that are going to be coming. Who knows, in a month or two it may be totally viable to make the leap into full fledged VR development if the HTC Vive or even the Playstation VR announces a lower price point which would entice more consumers to buy and grow the market.
Right now however, the cost of owning the Oculus Rift is too high for the mass consumer, which means there are fewer jobs in the industry that focus on virtual reality. 2016 has just started and VR does not seem to have a very bright future ahead of it, but right now you may want to consider all your options before diving in head first to develop for virtual reality.
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