Virtual reality is finally a reality for anyone who has the money to afford this first generation of high-end VR for PCs. After forking over $2 billion for a startup called Oculus VR two years ago, Facebook has shipped its $600 Oculus Rift. And rival Valve has partnered with HTC to release the Vive, an $800 room-scale VR platform. But unless you’re one of those die-hard gamers who’ve been waiting decades for the promise of virtual worlds to come to life inside your bulky headset, this first wave of VR is worth skipping. Here's why.
While the base cost of the virtual reality hardware is $600 and $800 for the Rift and Vive, respectively, these power-draining platforms require supped-up PCs. That means you’ll be spending an additional $1,000 or more just to be able to step into these virtual experiences. Some PC companies, including Dell and Asus, are offering bundles where you get the Rift and the PC to run it for one price. As with any new technology, prices will drop rather quickly. Facebook, Valve, and HTC know that early adopters will pay anything to be first into VR, so it’s wise to wait.
Lack of Killer Apps
There are hundreds of virtual reality games to choose from for both the Rift and the Vive. In fact, many of the games are available on both platforms. But the reason you likely first purchased an Xbox console was because of Halo, and VR currently lacks that type of killer app. It’s also worth noting that this is just the first generation of VR games, which means developers are just testing the waters of this brand new medium. The second wave of experiences will only get better, giving you a better selection if you wait it out.
The Oculus Rift Isn’t Even a Complete Experience Yet
Unlike the Vive, which costs a bit more but comes with a pair of hand controllers, anyone who buys a Rift will only receive an Xbox One controller. That’s because Facebook delayed the launch of its Oculus Touch hand controllers until the fall. So not only will you have to pay an additional undisclosed amount for those controllers, you won’t really get a true VR experience on the platform yet. Being able to see a pair of virtual hands and control things in VR is key to tricking your mind into believing you’re inside another world. Vive has that today. Oculus will add that in the future.
Sony Is Launching PlayStation VR in October
Both the Rift and Vive require some time to set up. They’re not plug-and-play experiences for just anyone to jump into right now. Sony is shipping PlayStation VR for PlayStation 4 this October, which will offer a more streamlined console approach to VR. If you’re not tech-savvy, it’s worth waiting around for this $500 system (plus the cost of a PS4) to launch. It will feature an array of exclusive games, as well as many of the same games currently available for the Rift and the Vive.
It's Not Even Cordless
All of this year’s virtual reality platforms are currently tethered experiences. This means your PC or PS4 is connected by wires to the headset. If you’re sitting down and shooting enemy spacecraft in EVE: Valkyrie, that’s fine. But if you’re trying to target armed space pirates that are coming at you from every direction in Space Pirate Trainer on the Vive, it can get in your way. Just as game controllers are now wireless as the standard, in the near future, headsets will cut the cord and offer more immersive experiences that don’t tug at your head from time to time.