We’re almost out of the GDC tunnel, and that means almost out of the virtual reality cyclone that’s been reining over the event over the last week. This year was truly the year that brought virtual reality to the mainstream space once and for all, with tremors building over the last year, GDC has shifted the earth under the feet of the gaming industry forever. Under the barrage of media releases of who’s creating and showing off what and how, it’s easy to get lost in the flurry of launch titles, specifications, and special features. So, here is the run-down of the top three virtual reality devices for gaming that are hitting the market this year – PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive.
It’s arguable that the PlayStation VR revelations were the biggest virtual reality announcements of GDC this year. Fans had long awaited a price, release date, and more juicy information on the virtual reality device most likely to be within their range. The headset will retail at $399 and will not include the PlayStation 4 Camera required to play, though this usually retails for around $60. The PlayStation 4 is the hub of the PSVR, being used to deliver games and offer a ‘social screen’ – the ability to display both VR and non-VR gameplay on a TV so that all players can play together. Players can purchase Move controllers for more immersive gameplay, or can simply use the DualShock 4 controller. The 5.7 inch OLED panel offers 960 x 1080 resolution per eye at 120 frames per second over 100 degrees of visual field. In fact, Sony are claiming that their sub pixel screen is able to significantly lessen the effects of visible “screen door effect” in which players can see black lines between pixels. Games-wise, there are 50 title set for release between PSVR’s October release date and the end of 2016, with a digital bundle of 6 games to show off the system.
Max Cost: $366 (PS4, if you don’t already have one – Amazon price), $399 (headset), $44 (PS4 Camera – Amazon), $60 (2 Move controllers – Amazon): $869
Release Date: October 2016
Who’s It For: The gamer who wants to invest in virtual reality, but doesn’t want to make the thousand dollar leap. If you already have a PS4 the cost is going to be the lowest anyone’s going to pay for this technology. Though the specifications don’t quite match up to other companies, it’s a sound investment for the price it’s going for.
Climbing up the ladder a fair way is Oculus Rift, the first rung in the whole virtual reality revolution. With the headset in development since 2012, Oculus has had the longest to work on their product, researching technologies and developing a vast number of different models. The consumer product will be sold for $599, coming in as the cheapest PC option. The rift runs with 1080 x 1200 resolution per eye, 110 degree field of vision, and 90 frames per second. To run this, Oculus requires a pretty hefty machine. The suggested graphics cards for example, if you’re building your own, are NVIDIA at $319.99 or AMD 290 at $299.99. However, if you were to purchase a full Oculus ready PC, you will start at $949. The headset is packaged with an Xbox One wireless controller, the Oculus Remote, and a sensor. Interactive Oculus Touch controllers will ship later in 2016 for those who want a more immersive experience. All Rift pre-orders will be shipped with Eve: Valkyrie, all headsets will include Lucky’s Tale and a total of 30 games will be available at launch.
Max Cost: $949 (Oculus-ready PC starting price), $599 (headset): $1548
(Interactive Oculus Touch Controllers not yet detailed)
Release Date: 28th March
Who’s It For: You have to be a little more than interested to fully invest in everything required to run the Oculus. However, if you already have the super-computer it requires, it’s the cheapest PC headset on the market.
At the top of the gaming ladder is Valve’s Vive. It follows the same specs as the Oculus, however also boasts a front facing camera and built in phone which can be accessed to answer texts and phone calls without leaving your virtual world. In the box you’ll find the headset, two wireless controllers, and two 360 degree tracking and movement sensors. These sensors allow players to move around the room as part of the game – a drastic shift from the sit-down controller based play that Oculus and PSVR seem to start at. The Vive offers the most advanced VR technology and some of the most immersive experiences of the three. Titles included with the headset are Fantastic Contraption, Job Simulator, and Google Tilt Brush as well as a collection of Portal inspired mini-games. The computer required to run the Vive is similar to the Oculus, however the headset itself comes in at $799.
Max Cost: $949 (rough estimate for starting PC based on Oculus specs, $799 (headset): $1748
Release Date: 5th April
Who’s It For: Again if you already own the PC it needs, it’s an extra $200 for the immersion, and interactivity offered by the Vive straight out the box. Saying that, it’s the same as the Oculus under the hood and so if you’re not fussed about the extras afforded to you by the Vive, it might be wise to save that cash for some games. If you don’t own the PC Vive needs to live, you’re looking at a serious investment.
PlayStation VR has come in here as the mass market option – most people will be opting out of the $1500+ price tag and will settle for slightly lower quality but an intact bank balance. That said, the PC options offer the forefront of technological innovation, with the Vive being celebrated as the most immersive yet so you get what you pay for the higher you go up the market.