Sony’s shooter might not be a killer app for this tech, but the field is pushing forward

In front of my eyes is a rocky Mars-like planet littered with alien spiders that really don’t like me much. Armed with a high-tech rifle, I blast them away. In this reality, I am sitting on the couch wearing a PlayStation VR headset, and pointing a gun-shaped piece of plastic at the TV.

As virtual reality takes baby steps to become the technology that has been promised for the past few years, Sony’s just-released “Farpoint” is a big-budget first-person shooter that promises a full-fledged campaign with high production values, something akin to a full meal as opposed to the bite-sized experiences that currently are available so far.

The game’s arrival couldn’t come soon enough — the PSVR arrived with a spate of games last November, but as with many launches, there hasn’t been much released since.

If 2016 was the year of the VR launch, 2017 is shaping up generally to be a bit of a reality check. Out of the gate the higher-end headsets, namely the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, have not sold as well as expected.

“I think there has been a lot of early excitement and hype out there and now the reality has been that these are devices, like the Rift and Vive, cost as much as a new video game system. That’s the barrier, they are prohibitively expensive,” says Lewis Ward, research director of gaming and VR/AR for IDC, a market-research company.

Many analysts lowered their sales estimates for this year and according to Crunchbase, an investment tracker, VR investment is down, but that’s likely because there was so much in 2016.

Cheaper mobile headsets are doing well: According to Superdata, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear VR is pegged to sell 6.7 million units this year, while Google’s Daydream headsets are estimated at 3.5 million. Sony’s PSVR expected to sell 2.6 million units followed by HTC’s Vive, on track for 553,000 shipped units, while Oculus is set to hit 346,000 shipments.

Ward points out that there is a lot of development, and while there isn’t a killer app just yet, it likely won’t be just one creation that changes the market.

“The primary barrier to adoption is the hardware price, and there are decent experiences out there,” he says.

“As we saw with smartphones back in the 2000s, everyone used to ask what the killer app is for phones . . . and what it turned out to be was a billion little apps. It was a cumulative thing. I think it will be the same for VR.”

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