With the Oculus Rift shipping in less than a week, the excitement for virtual reality continues to increase. This year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) was full to the brim with content for VR, which meant that more people had a chance to try virtual reality in its multiple forms. As excited as we are for VR, it’s time to face some facts and establish some baselines for measuring success.
A few early facts . . . You will no longer be able to pre-order the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive in time for their respective launch dates. If you pre-order the Rift now, you won’t get it until July, and you’ll have to wait until May for the Vive. The PlayStation VR bundle isn’t sold out yet, but it’s going fast, and you can still place a pre-order at Best Buy or GameStop. The PSVR pre-orders have sold out on Amazon, Target and Walmart. There’s one baseline.
Here’s another: Two weeks ago, we asked you, the Tom’s Hardware readers, to participate in a survey to gauge your interest in VR and to tell us whether or not your current PC was considered “VR-ready.” We received over 2,300 responses, and the results are interesting, to say the least. Most of you lack some component to meet the minimum requirements for VR, and for many, the upgrade to meet those requirements will cost $750 or more. On top of that, most of you don’t plan to make such a drastic upgrade until 2018 at the earliest. In fact, most of you haven’t tried some form of modern VR yet.
Let's take a closer look at the results.
Have You Tried It?
Of the 2,300 respondents, only 25.5 percent (or 591 respondents) have tried some form of modern VR, with the most popular VR model being the Oculus DK2 (53 percent), followed by Google Cardboard (36.8 percent). The “Other” column had 63 responses from people who tried HMDs such as Razer’s OSVR, PSVR, Fove and Homido.
With VR, more so than any other piece of technology, seeing is believing. Of those that tried some form of modern VR in the past, 57.1 percent changed their perspective on the issue of costly VR hardware.
The Barrier To Entry
Like any PC game, VR devices have their own set of requirements. Oculus’ and HTC’s requirements are almost identical, and both require a significant investment in your system before you even buy the VR device itself.
More than half of you -- 57.5 percent to be exact -- considered your PC to be “VR-ready” based on the system requirements from the two companies. However, some readers are missing some key components, mainly the GPU. Both the Rift and Vive have a minimum GPU requirement of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970 or AMD’s Radeon R9 290. Those two GPUs start at around the $300 mark, so upgrading is quite the investment.
According to Jon Peddie Research, the number of add-in board / graphics cards (AIB) rose last year to 50 million shipments compared to 2014’s 44 million. Of the 50 million shipments in 2015, only 5.9 million units were considered to be “enthusiast-level AIBs,” which, according to Immersive Technology Alliance Director Neil Schneider, are GPUs in the medium- to high-performance range. This was a significant increase from 2014, when 2.9 million enthusiast-level AIBs were shipped. Even with the increase in GPU sales, there aren’t too many people that are buying more powerful cards, which are essential in VR.
Other missing components included a capable CPU as well as the required number of USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and HDMI ports. Unsurprisingly, most respondents already have the necessary 8 GB of memory or more, as well as the required Windows 7 SP1 (64-bit) or higher.
The Upgrade Cost
Even though most of you can (and will) upgrade your components at some point in 2016, the cost of upgrading to achieve VR-ready status will apparently be around $750 and higher. Combine that with one of the two major HMDs, and you may still need to cough up between $1,350 and $1,550, at least, to get a full VR setup. (Depending on your system budget, that’s equivalent to the cost of one, or even two, PCs.)
For those who won’t be able to afford an upgrade in 2016, a majority are willing to wait an additional two years or more to see how the VR market shakes out. However, a smaller percentage of people will be upgrading their system to meet the VR requirements around the beginning or middle of 2017. By then, newer GPU models will be available, which will drive down prices on current GPUs and will therefore lower the cost of entry into VR. Then again, a majority of respondents noted that they wouldn’t upgrade their system specifically for VR.
Another option is to buy one of the VR-ready systems sold by companies such as Asus, Alienware and MSI. However, a resounding majority of respondents — almost 95 percent — stated that they wouldn’t consider buying these pre-built PCs. Why? Because they feel they could build a better (and cheaper) PC.
Regarding pre-orders, 22 percent of respondents placed a pre-order for either the Rift or the Vive. The main problem is cost. The money used to pre-order the Vive or Rift could be put towards other things, such as a better GPU or CPU. Others don’t want to jump the gun on the issue, and are willing to wait until reviews come out for both devices. Some are even willing to wait a little longer, specifically to the second generation of the Rift or Vive.
Those who selected “Other” as their reason for not pre-ordering an HMD had some interesting answers as well. Some stated that it’s not available in their country at launch. Two respondents are willing to wait for a holodeck-like device to come out. One can’t afford it at the moment due to a wedding (congrats!). And then there’s this guy:
“VR is not going to live up to the hype. It will fizzle and fade away, just a little slower than it did in the 90's. Who wants to wear a scuba mask on their face just to play games? I'll tell you who. Super Nerdboy Dweeby Dweeby Man, that's who. I grew up on cyberpunk and it's amazing reading about, but it is dorkier than dorky can be. I mean, it's too lame for words. And it is also so unhygenic [sic] that it should be illegal. Gross, gross, and double gross. Hey, want to borrow my Oculus that I sweated in for 4.5 hours? Here, want to try it on? Didn't think so. I sprayed it down with antibacterial soap, I swear you won't get any germs. Ick, Ick, and double, triple Ick. Ick Ick Ick. VR belongs in cyberpunk only, and perhaps for special needs people. And, for an occasional game here and there, to have a little spice, like the Wii did way back when, but that's it. Please pass me the barf bag why I use it after 30 minutes of VR. Ick.”
Rounding It All Up
So there you have it. Granted, this is but a small sample size within the Tom’s Hardware readership, but you may well fit into one of the many categories presented in the results. As with any new product, price is always an issue. Some people are willing to pay the cost up front to get their hands on it before anyone else. Others will wait for the reviews, or buy the required hardware when it becomes less expensive.
But for some, it’s simply a matter of not trying VR in the first place. The number of people who haven’t tried VR is massive compared to those who have. In the recent past, you could try these HMDs only at conventions and major shows, but with a consumer version available, you might try the HMD that your friend or family member bought recently. If not, there’s a possibility that you could try it soon at your local electronics store.
Who knows? You might be turn into a VR fanatic after your first five-minute demo.