Virtual reality was arguably the biggest concept in technology in 2017 – at least as far as consumer-facing products go. While VR really emerged throughout 2016, it was this year that it became a little more popular and a little more accessible. As we wrote some time ago, VR (along with augmented reality) will be worth billions as the next major medium in gaming and entertainment. Now, however, as we prepare to head into 2018, it pays to ask what will help it reach its full potential. In other words, what could be next?
The first thing that a lot of people will point to is the emergence of more affordable headsets, which has already begun to a degree and should continue into 2018. Early VR headsets – or at least the ones that generated headlines and had their capabilities publicized – remain very expensive. But different ranges of VR products have sorted themselves, so to speak, so that consumers can now spend more or less what they’d like on them. What will be interesting however is seeing if the price for the high-end products like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive can come down a little bit. If this happens – and it may – VR will quickly become vastly more mainstream.
Another change that could well lead to VR’s continued growth in the consumer market is the design of more object/controller hybrids. Right now controls vary between devices and games, and can at times become more awkward. However, one writer points out that VR is really about blending physical and digital worlds together – as opposed to simply creating virtual worlds and making them work. The implication here is that a physical prop or object can actually enhance the illusion of virtual reality – which is to say object/controller hybrids could actually be idea. We’ve already seen some of these, and with genres like shooters and adventures in open worlds beginning to creep into VR, we’ll probably see more. The chance to, say, hold a plastic gun or bow and arrow while fighting or hunting through a virtual environment will only make everything feel more realistic.
If we’re going to be seeing more shooter and adventure games, meanwhile, it stands to reason that other genres will be brought into the fold as well. And in fact, some are already quite close to becoming part of VR. Take casino gaming into account, for instance. “CasinoVR” was an early title that gave as an idea of what competitive poker might look like on the medium, and now other types of games from this category – namely slots – are being put out in 3D. The interesting thing is that these games are in essence the same as video slots, but rendered in 3D – which would seem to imply that similar adaptation to VR would be an easy step for developers. Coupling this with existing poker experimentations, and entire casinos in VR would seem to be around the corner.
Expanding on the idea of new genres, we’re also likely to see growing “app markets” for virtual reality. With the devices themselves becoming more mainstream, and new gaming concepts being introduced, the market for downloadable VR experiences will expand even beyond what it’s like now. This may ultimately be the biggest and most significant change we’ll see. While there won’t necessarily be a universal app market such as we see for mobile games on Google or Apple devices, we will likely see large digital libraries of games emerging and making it easier for people to do pretty much whatever they’d like in mixed reality.
Add it all up, and 2018 will be another big year. If VR emerged in 2016 and went mainstream in 2017, next year will be the year when it becomes ordinary – in the most spectacular ways.