Virtual reality gaming?

First reviews are in for Nintendo's Labo virtual reality kit

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Is virtual reality the future of gaming?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

Virtual reality is seen as the perfect platform for the evolution of video games. It completely immerses the user in a computer-generated reality.

More and more companies are exploring the technology, with the latest being Nintendo.

Is VR gaming worth the investment? Or should gaming consoles shun the technology which could "go the way of 3D TVs and die a slow death"?

The Claim

While the likes of Sony and Microsoft have thrown their hats in the VR ring, Nintendo has been "conspicuously absent". That was until the release of the Nintendo Labo VR kit - something which The Verge describes as a "playful, bitesize virtual reality arcade".

They argue it is "playful and silly", serving as an excellent introduction to virtual reality gaming.

The Verge explains: "Of course, this being Nintendo, it’s not just any pair of virtual reality goggles. This is a company that likes to go its own way, and its first proper foray into VR is no different.

"Instead of the chunky black headsets that have become synonymous with VR, thanks to the likes of Oculus and HTC, Nintendo is releasing a device that’s made of cardboard that you have to build yourself as part of the company’s Labo line of DIY accessories for the Switch."

They say that Labo VR is perhaps the ideal first step into VR for a younger audience, adding: "It’s approachable, simple to set up, and it gets around many of the issues that can make VR difficult for people."

Nintendo may have been late to the VR party, and their take is different (and interesting) compared to their competitors, but it is "as weird and fun as you'd expect".

The Counterclaim

Microsoft may have made some forays into the world of VR gaming, but the company has held off from introducing virtual reality elements to its Xbox. It looks like they will continue to do so when they launch the new version of the games console.

Extra.ie's Thomas Telford argues that this is "100 per cent the right call".

He says that the risks are too great for Xbox. For instance, Xbox and peripherals do not mix - all you have to do is look at the Kinect, which was "kicked to the curb" a little over a year after its launch.

Telford asks: "Why risk the bad PR from launching a VR headset when they don’t have any experience in that market?"

He also argues that there is no guarantee that VR gaming is here to stay, saying: "It’s completely plausible that it could go the way of 3D TVs and die a slow death."

While Sony has the advantage of already launching VR elements to the PlayStation, there are users that still have to be convinced. It has sold over three million units of its PSVR headset - it may seem impressive, but the vast majority of PS4 consoles (over 90 million) are not using VR.

Telford concludes that Microsoft should "just fully focus on creating a console that plugs into your TV, rather than creating a VR headset".

He adds: "Why would they create a brand new platform for their games when they’re only now fixing the problem with the Xbox One? Far too big a risk with not enough gain."

The Facts

VR can be accessed through a headset, such as Facebook's Oculus, HTC Vive, or Google Cardboard, and used to fully immerse yourself into a computer-generated reality. It immerses the user into this simulated reality by stimulating their senses, in particular their vision and hearing.

Most VR headsets use six-degrees-of-freedom (6DOF) motion tracking through external sensors or cameras. This allows the headsets to detect the direction in which you're facing, and any movement you make in those directions.

The VR gaming industry started to grow with the release of Oculus and Samsung Gear VR. In 2015, the Vive headset with hand controllers and tracking technology was released - and by the end of that year, the VR gaming reached $4.3 bullion. In 2016, there were 230 VR development companies, producing both hardware and software, according to Think Mobiles.

VR gaming is still growing and growing. It was worth $9.6 billion last year, and it is set to increase to $15.1 billion in 2019. By the following year, it is predicted to be worth over $20 billion.

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