The Big Question: Who's Going To Win The VR Race?

The VR race is heating up. And I'm always torn on who I think has the best chance at success.

At one point I felt as though Oculus were the experts. This is what they do. They're going to kill it.

Then Valve jumped on board with the HTC Vive and I thought, damn. Valve won't lose this battle. Apparently the HTC Vive is pretty good from a technical perspective.

PlayStation VR? I was a little cynical about that. It's a peripheral, it won't have the scope and ambition of the Oculus Rift.

But then I played it. And now I'm starting to seriously think that PlayStation and Sony have the right idea. I wonder if Oculus and the HTC Vive will be too much of a 'PC thing' to go properly mainstream. The PlayStation 4 is selling well, it's about to get a broader audience with price cuts — maybe it has a better chance at success?

I'm not sure.

What are your thoughts?


    Playstation, it will be more accessible.

      Hopefully Sony can do a convincing marketing campaign. They are sometimes a bit hit-or-miss with those (remember Vita, Playstation TV, Wonderbook and Move?)

      It's going to be challenging to convey to the consumer what they are buying. Doing it via traditional advertising methods like TV ads is going to be really interesting.

        The counter examples (Vita, PSTV, etc.) were forced on the consumer whereas with VR, people are asking why it isn't here yet and Sony's like it's not ready yet.

          The Vita was "forced" on us? Pretty sure many were begging for it.

            Sorry I meant, it was "forced/incentivized" on game developers (you had to say "please use VITA, Move for your game?). For VR, developers are jumping in by their own volition.

            Last edited 04/01/16 9:26 am

      It is also a singular product with set specifications. Which is very important when it comes to popular adoption of new & complex technology.

      We saw this with the touch screen smartphones, where the variety of models released actually held those companies back while Apple succeeded in offering better support in a confined ecosystem.

    The Lawnmower Man, his age will be heralded by every phone ringing at once!

    As Ross said and Mark implied, accessibility is a strong factor with these things.

    Last edited 28/10/15 11:21 am

      If the lawnmower man only rings landlines nobody will notice.

    I'm all in on Oculus. And can't wait to try out the Touch controllers.

      Oculus touch is an awesome piece of kit. Too bad it isn't available at launch.

      Last edited 29/10/15 2:36 pm

    Well seeing as how the PC based ones need a certain spec PC to have them working, I would expect the Sony one to win.

    Whoever makes it easier to watch VR porn is gonna win.

    I saw VR porn for the first time the other day and seriously, that is gonna market VR to the masses far better than any cool dude space video game will.

    Who's gonna win in the gaming world? Dunno. Maybe Sony just because it'll be easier to play super cool dude space video games.

      Porn drove VHS, DVDs and the internet into mainstream, it'll do the same for VR.

        It also decided the HD-DVD/BluRay war (With a little help from WB and other major players). Porn originally sided with HD DVD because BluRay didn't do anything to help it out, but then BluRay started paying attention to HD-DVD's rising popularity because of porn and basically did all they could to curry favour with the industry.

        Last edited 28/10/15 11:45 am

        When the first batches of iOS devices were selling like hotcakes, it was despite the lack of flash compatibility (i.e Pr0n compatibility).

        So, I'm not sure there is a valid correlation, or is it coincidence?

        Last edited 29/10/15 2:30 pm

      You can do that on your phone right now with a headset like Google Cardboard or the DiveVR

      Maybe the biggest winner will be websites that post and share embarrassing videos of dudes whacking off obliviously while half a dozen of his mates stand around pointing, laughing and recording.

      Or maybe it’ll be the councillors who have a sudden influx of traumatised victims who’ve had their private time irretrievably posted on the internet.

      All I know is that the future is going to be a wonderful place!

        I don't think we'll see guys in VR headsets whacking off in the middle of JB HiFi. At least I hope not.

        If you're going to engage in "private time", make sure no-one can walk in on you. That's just common sense, with or without a headset.

          People will and DO get walked in on though (both accidentally and otherwise), people get caught peering into their computer monitor with headphones on all the time.

          It’s going to be a lot worse when your hysterical mother has to physically grab you on the shoulder before you to realise that you forgot to lock the door!

    As always, people who enjoy punching unsuspecting nerds in the junk will be the winners on the day.

    I'm a dev for Oculus, but after watching the PS4 event, and trying it out earlier in the year, I think Sony is going to be the one to get it right. They seem to understand the need for crafting VR experiences and games that work in VR, rather than forcing older types of games into the VR space. The PS4 pumps enough graphics power to have really nice VR experiences, I was worried on that front, but they get what is important graphics-wise and I am not as worried on that front now.

    Also, their tech is as good as anyone elses as far as the HMD goes, it is comfortable too, and will be truly plug and play, and more importantly, is likely to have quite a few good or even great games available for it upon release.

    Oculus has the problem of content. They had a huge head-start, but I'm not seeing any depth to games/experiences yet, either in the titles themselves, or the amount of titles. Also, it is just so fiddly to get it to work on the PC without hitches - similar issues with Valve and the Hive.

    I really hope VR takes off, but I think on the PC front, after the initial burst, it will be only the hard-core and early adopters that will take to it, and there is going to be a nightmare of installation and maintenance issues, whereas I can see a wider audience taking up the PS4 headsets, and Sony gets to be the gatekeeper to ensure that the only titles released are actually ones that give a great experience.

    So I reckon the Sony one is going to go gang-busters, if the price is right and the games are there at launch.

    Last edited 28/10/15 11:26 am

      Oculus was great in the beginning, but as you said. The amount of fiddling to get it working correctly can drive me nuts.

      Not to mention the constant switching between legacy modes and extended mode puts me off setting it back up a lot of the times. Then there is those moments where I am trying to peer into my oculus to try to get the game to work with my desktop inverted and shifted off to the side through one eye. Quite hilarious when I think about it.

      The only time I really decide to set it up is when I want to play Elite Dangerous, but even then I sigh when looking to pack it all up again. Especially only after 20 minutes of play.

        That's all part and parcel of dealing with a dev kit though. The consumer version shouldn't have any of that fiddling around, or version switching of runtimes, and definitely no extended mode :P

          Thanks for reminding of this. Important note taken. I almost forgot that I have been using a dk2 dev kit this entire time.

          I meant the fiddling around with the PC in general, and it is a given that Oculus will keep updating the underlying code for the thing, and at times it will break existing games etc. etc. and the consumer version still has all the cables, and the camera and its associated cables etc.

    Gamers will.

    It's a new way of making games and a new way of thinking about gameplay.

    I'm looking forward to the next year, that's for sure.

    If I wanted to use a PC for VR purposes, I would likely need to get a new PC. I currently have a 3-5 year old laptop that was mid range powerful at the time and a current mid range Surface Pro 3. I seriously doubt that either of those have enough horse power to be able to run a decent VR head set at a good frame rate.

    My PS4 being able to run VR with just a peripheral? That sounds a lot more appealing to me. :-\

    It also does not help that VR seems so personal a piece of tech. There have been reports of people who have had no history of motion sickness or trouble viewing screens having horrid experiences. It seems one does not really know if the tech will work for you personally until you use it yourself, and it seems impossible to get a demonstration of the tech side by side for a non-journalist Australian.

    I'd rather spend I guess $500 for a PS4 headset to work with a console I have, rather than $2500+ for a PC option that may not even work for me. :-(

      I have a GTX680 still. Time to upgrade, but I think it's a really bad idea to upgrade anything without having a look at the real world performance after Oculus releases and has a few demanding games for it.

      I know they have a minimum spec, but I'm betting that's on a system that doesn't really have other programs running on the background. Memory bandwidth will differ still with different configurations. So to start off I'm gonna go with PSVR too.

    I wanted to vote for the Vive because it sounds (potentially) so much more amazing than the others...but the accessibility as it is is a bit of a downer.

    Oculus all the way. I'm so keen to use it in a bunch of games (especially Star Citizen).

      I've a feeling there will be a few other options by the time Star Citizen releases, including a whole other generation of consoles.

    I wouldn't even begin to be able to guess who will win in terms of sales, but at least from a visual point of view of the actual product I think Sony's won. The Playstation VR looks a damn sight sexier than the Rift or Vive.

      I still don't think the non-hardcore consumer out there will want to wear any of those things on their head. These will all be niche products for a good while yet, I think.

    I think the PS VR will take this one out. Purely because of the ease of use and the accessibility. Sure, Oculus and Vive may offer better technical experiences but that's not what the average gamer wants. The average gamer wants the most difficult aspect of the setup to be adjusting the head strap.
    Content will obviously drive sales. Given how expensive the headset will be, and how much that indicates Sony has invested in the project, I can't see them abandoning it like they did with Playstation Move.
    Playstation is a cornerstone of Sony's business and they're betting big this generation - so far, it's absolutely paying off.
    I, for one, will be buying PS VR on day one.

    Here's the issue with the PS4 version, it's on a console. How well if at all will it be supported on PC? You can't really tinker and try out pre-demos or adjust advanced things on consoles, if it doesn't work right you can't customize the settings. Its a pre-defined experience.

    On PC however you can get under the hood to get VR working just about anywhere. I think the Oculus is going to be good, not because of the headset but because of the controllers they plan to release soon afterwards. They actually look allot better then Valves and I think will work better.

      I think the whole point of consoles is that they're standardized, so you don't need to tinker with it. It's a single set of specs, so the developers just target that and get it working right for those specs, and no tinkering is required to get it working on different set ups because there are no different set ups.

      I can only assume that Sony will have that covered. I would hope that they'll have VR settings embedded into the system firmware with VR games having individual VR profiles saved to your PSN ID.
      I don't know the right terminology so I'll just try and explain what I mean.
      You'd have an overall, broader settings section accessible from the console's UI where you can set your preferred FOV, your prescription (if needed), etc. You'd give the console a broad idea of what's most comfortable for you.
      VR games would be required to adhere to these particular stipulations set out by Sony, and be required to implement these broad preferences as "default" when that user boots up that game. Within the game, though, the devs are free to create as many customizable tools and settings as they want, while using your overall preferences as a baseline. The game's tailored settings are saved to your profile and automatically kick in when you boot the game up.
      This way, you've still got the opportunity to tinker and customize whilst still keeping the user experience simple.
      You'll always have more customisability on PC - but then again, that's always been the case. I think Sony will be able to do a pretty good job of setting hardline standards and then letting devs do what they want if they feel like users need more flexibility.
      I wouldn't have the first idea as to how to get "under the hood" to customize an Oculus setup but give me a menu of sliders where I can fiddle until I get it right? I'll be all over it.

        Sony seems very quiet on the system software front. They were the same with the PS4 OS. But they've always focused on simplicity and responsiveness.

        To your point, the infrastructure to support "individual player controller preferences" was already built into PS4 OS at launch. They only started using it recently, where individual players can have their own button layouts and such. XBO had it at launch as well.

        The fact that my PS4 has a more responsive OS than Microsoft's XBox One (if you have both, you can see this very clearly) is close to unbelievable.

      Would be amazing for support and compatibility if Sony made theirs available for PC as well, but I'm 99.98% sure that wont happen.

        This will never happen. Sony wouldn't do it, because having a fixed ecosystem is the biggest advantage they have over their competitors. Even if hackers get it to work, it would be close to unusable on PC.

          There's still the 0.02% chance I mentioned ;)

          Would be good though in all honesty.

      If it doesn't work right, the developers can see that it doesn't because they have the same gear (PSVR, PSCamera, PS4, DS4).

      Engineers will find it much easier to fine tune the experience for the end user. They see it exactly the way you would experience it. This is actually the biggest advantage of PSVR.

      With PC you can run into various inconsistencies. The developer will never be able to test all platforms.

      Last edited 29/10/15 3:01 pm

    At one point I felt as though Oculus were the experts. This is what they do. They’re going to kill it.

    But you've got to ask why were they the experts? They were responsible for the current popularity of headset VR but they haven't really done anything magic with it. It's not like when Rare came into the N64 era with 3D modeling tools and design experience that nobody else had. Their kits have been in the public and under the spotlight so much that everyone benefits from their experience.
    I don't think any of them will 'win' here. PlayStation VR will likely follow the usual console accessory route where outside of a few launch titles nobody truly embraces it, and then they quit on it by the time the PS5 comes out so it'll never get that chance to be part of the console. Oculus doesn't seem to be doing anything. They might benefit from their XBOX One partnership but unless they can establish themselves as the PC brand I think they'll follow the same route as the PlayStation VR. Vive has Valve in it's corner, and unlike consoles Steam has a low barrier for entry and low price points that create a good environment for the sort of short but sweet one off indie level experiences that suit current VR systems the best.

      On the console side, you also have longevity. 3 years from now you may be able to buy the whole PSVR setup for $200 preowned and it will still play the games. It will move onto a different market.

      Unlike previous console generations, the ones going forth would likely be backwards compatible because of the X86 adoption. I doubt they will drop support next gen.

      Take Move or Stereoscopic 3D for example, compatibility and support are present (PS4). But development isn't, because the market isn't there. Same thing could have happened to BluRay. But it didn't because the market didn't go away.

    My predictions:

    Playstation VR:
    Will get there first, probably going to be a solid experience obviously tailored to PS4. Will get a lot of existing PS4 owners into VR and will do very well in it's space. If you can take the hardware and run it with a PC for chat/video/games and other apps then it will be a VERY successful device.

    Occulus Rift:
    We've all been hearing that Oculus is coming, they really have 3-9 months to have a fully fledged product in the hands of the masses or they're going to miss the boat bigtime. I believe that they have the experience and staff to be the best in the business but they need to make it work as easily as plug and play.

    Everyone is conditioned to plug and play (thanks apple), the PS VR will be plug and play. If they bring out a device that's hassle setup with configs then that's what most people will remember "Yeah Oculus is cool, but what a battle... would rather something that just works".

    If they can nail that, they're front runner

    HTC Vive:
    Whilst technically awesome I just can't see it picking up traction. They have the same problems that Oculus have but without the Oculus team and branding. I guess they have the same fork in the road as Oculus but are one step behind PR wise. If they manage to beat Oculus in terms of release and ease of use then they could come out in front, but at the moment I'd say they're last on the list.

      Valve is trying to stay out of Hardware and popularize Hardware at the same time. Their presentations will hardy discuss hardware. I think they lack commitment compared to the other two.

      Oculus is fully committed, but launching a consumer electronics device worldwide, then supporting it with manufacturing, content, marketing, support etc is yet to be proven. Bigger companies that have decades of experience in this area have messed up.

      PSVR on the other hand is probably being tested right now with final hardware, OS, API and games. Sony can tweak every layer in this environment but they also have incidents where the best engineers would still mess up (PS Vita).

      PS Vita is an incredible design and lots of hard work may have gone to it, but those painfully tiny face buttons and analogue sticks are a huge oversight in design when considering the use cases.

      Last edited 04/01/16 1:33 pm

        Also most of the games on Vita sucks to the masses. They have a somewhat loyal fanbase, but the games are completely lacking and that's why they're not selling units.

        Interesting times ahead with VR. Apparently the PS VR unit comes with an external processing unit.... makes sense but annoying... and Occulus needs 4 USB ports and wont be shipping motion controls til mid year.... interesting times indeed.

    If Valve launched the HTC Vive for steam machines with HL3 as an exclusive launch title, it'll sell a shit load, whether it could rival Oculus and the Playstation VR which seemingly have a bit more momentum behind them at the moment will be interesting to watch.

    If Facebook have anything to do with it the Oculus will win. This is from the Wikipedia page.
    Oculus believes that social applications will be the most popular virtual reality experiences in the long term.

    Which is exactly why I'll never buy one, wouldn't even take one if they were giving them out for free.

    Personally I'll probably be getting the Playstation VR and possibly the HTC Vive.

    I don't understand how the ps4 has the horsepower to run vr. It has to render two separate images for each eye at certain resolution and a decent frame rate so how does it do it? I'm pretty sure that the oculus rift needs at least a gtx 980 to run with optimum settings and that's way above what the ps4 has to offer. Anyway if Sony can pull it off its going to be awesome but I'd hate for it to be rendered in 720p at 30 fps...

      As I understand it they will basically be running at 60 fps bumped up to 120fps via reprojection. Image quality will be lower because of the need to hit 60fps at all times to avoid sickness. You won't be getting all of the bling like good AA / AF, alpha and particle effects to anywhere near the same degree as the AAA games put out on PS4 at the moment. What you'll get is very solid, good-looking games that run as smooth as silk.

      The trick is that the VR games are not as 'big' as the AAA PS4 titles. Sony has understood that immersion and interaction are the main things, you can get away with less dense environments due to the feeling of 'being there'. So effectively, you can drop the amount of objects, and the poly counts considerably compared to a AAA title.
      So you will get really nice looking games, they won't look like Uncharted 4, but they don't need to, and then they can keep the frame-rates and resolution high.
      If you took say the best looking PS3 titles, and had that quality level in VR, then it is more than good enough, and the PS4 is grunty enough to make that happen.

      While I have no idea about the architecture of the PS VR, I am guessing that Sony have one (or more) custom DSPs to do the heavy lifting. Done well, it'd mean that the PS4 won't have any significant increase in load for driving the VR headset.

    Having tried it myself, the PS VR is quite amazing. And the way the motion controlers worked, it was very immersive. It was only for 10 minute demo but i didnt even notice how the graphics looked while trying to grab ammo clips and use the gun. Kind of reminded me of how it was to play wii tennis when it first came out even though the vraphics werent HD, the fun was there.

    And if it really is as easy to plug and play with a PS4 as it seemed, its a day 1 purchase, content pending.

    They're all shit is the correct answer. The first to market with a 4-8K headset will win. I suspect it'll be the first to run Star Citizen at 4K per eye. That game is gorgeous and designed for VR.

      Good luck with that. At the moment, screen tech has been driven by the mass market requirements for high resolution, small sized screens. Now that there is little reason for mobile phone screens to get higher pixel density, who is going to spend the billions on tooling up a factory to have 4K 6" screens made? The VR market isn't big enough, or likely to be big enough to develop that tech. If another industry doesn't come along that requires super high density screens, then we are going to be lucky to have much over 2K per eye.

      I've said it before and I will say it again. The human eye can barely see the difference that a 4K screen can make at that screen size, even if it is close to the face. Human eyes don't see in "pixels", it sees shapes and movements and does a whole lot of short cuts to create the "image" your brain sees. Increasing pixel density will not mean anything, except for increased manufacturing and development costs and a bullet point for marketing.

    I'm a console and Linux gamer, so that rules out the Oculus for me. I'd probably start by picking up the PS VR. If I feel the need, maybe the HTC, some time later.

    It all depends on the content. If there's something compelling to play, I'll choose the system needed to play it.

    Edit: If No Man's Sky has VR support, it's a No Brainer!

    Last edited 28/10/15 12:46 pm

      It has been announced that No Man's Sky will have PS4 VR support, I suspect that the release dates will be the same and a bundle will be offered.

    Occulus because it'll be used to more uses. For gaming they still have motion sickness issues. i think xbox's AR will be more useful long term for gaming because it won't have those issues.

    No one. This fad will come and go (again).

    Whichever has the highest horizontal FOV.

    PS4 doesn't have the ponies.

      FOV is actually governed by how complex your optical system can be without adding weight and size. Unlike resolution, it has nothing to do with performance. All three headsets will have negligible difference in FOV because the aspect ratio stays fixed.

      The specs you are referring to, in order to compare FOVs are non standardized. That means each company measures it differently and gives it a different number.

      If you were a third party developer you would treat all these VR headsets as having the same FOV.

      Regardless, you will find SONY to be better at optics.

      Last edited 29/10/15 4:04 pm

    Voted Oculus, but this is all dead-end technology IMO. @markserrels, where's my augmented reality option? Hololens is the real future IMO.

      Have you tried Hololens, it is nothing like the demos. I can't see it going anywhere, to be honest.

        Hololens itself as it currently exists, maybe not, but the future that it teases is far more interesting and has more long-term potential. It's the precursor to something big while maybe not being perfect yet on its own.

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