You don’t have to be a technophile or “90’s kid” to understand the rise and fall of virtual reality gaming. The technology was temporarily rendered obsolete by time and the advancement of consumer gadgetry, and then, boom: the massive VR headsets of the past—usually worn in marketing materials by kids with equally outdated haircuts—looked less cool than they were thought to be. In fact, they looked a little clunky.
However, the technology has recently started to come back in a big way . . . and a lot of people are getting very excited about it.
Virtual reality gaming didn’t fully go away in the late 90’s—it just went into hiding. For years, it sat among the most niche of technological hobbies, with only a handful of dedicated enthusiasts modifying existing gadgets and passing down VR headset schematics for home-brewed hardware to other fans.
Enter Palmer Luckey. The VR visionary was (and is) a king among kings in the virtual reality world, with a keen interest in the format and “the world’s largest private collection” of headsets, according to TechCrunch. Luckey soon moved on to making his own headsets, which in turn led to a fateful meeting with gaming industry legend John Carmack.
Suddenly, virtual reality gaming wasn’t laughably old-school tech. It was once again the capital-F Future of gaming.
Then came the crowdfunding campaign. The Kickstarter event for Luckey’s newly founded company, OculusVR (now simply called Oculus), legitimized virtual reality gaming and crowdfunding in one fell swoop, raising nearly $2.5 million in a scant three months. There have been lots of changes since then, including a $2 billion acquisition by Facebook, but that’s the basic story of how VR came back from the dead.
From Crowdfund to Competition
These days, Oculus has plenty to be flattered about—because there is no shortage of VR headsets coming to market, all thanks to that revitalization.
Take Razer’s OSVR Hacker Development Kit, for instance. Like Oculus’s hardware, the model still has yet to see a full consumer release, but what is known is exciting—several popular developers are hard at work producing OSVR-branded content for use across multiple headset models.
Other companies have taken a lower-key approach to virtual reality gaming, and Google Cardboard is a great example of this focus. By using a smartphone and what amounts to a cut-up cardboard box, users get a great VR experience by utilizing all the built-in sensors and gadgets already present in their smartphones.
Samsung’s Gear VR, on the other hand, sits somewhere in the middle of dedicated hardware and device-supported VR: the headset, which shares co-branding with Oculus, also allows gamers to slide a smartphone into a headset, and gives them a surprisingly competent VR experience.
With major companies like Oculus and Razer preparing to hit the market, one can only imagine what the gaming landscape will look like a couple of years from now. However it plays out, though, one thing’s certain: the best is yet to come, and it will be incredible when it arrives.