Every 15-20 years the face of gaming changes completely. After that, it never gets back to the same again. The first era started with Atari 2600 and arcade cabinets, and it was refined with 8 and 16 bit home computers and consoles.
Then 3D games completely and utterly changed that, starting with Doom and Duke Nukem, followed by Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64. 2D games thrived until that point, and in a matter of a few years, almost ceased to exist. Luckily 2D is back and going strong, but for a period of about 10 years, it was gone. Dead. Any company that couldn’t adapt to new era, would end up dying. This essentially happened to Sega’s console division, Atari, Commodore and many more.
So, it has been 20 years since the last era and surely a new era is upon us again. While it has been very important for casual gaming, it’s not tablet or mobile gaming, that’s just the same games on new platforms. And it’s definitely not the apps on your ‘Smart’ TV.
The new game changer is called Virtual Reality and it’s happening right now.
But Virtual Reality happened before and failed
It sure did. But so did 2D gaming and then 3D gaming. The first 2D games was created 20 years before they really took off, because technology simply wasn’t mature enough at the time. Same can be said for 3D gaming. Like the 20 years technology needed to mature to catch up with 2D gaming , technology has now matured enough to make virtual reality viable. But why now, what’s changed since 1990? Here is the main reasons it’s happening right now.
Something happened that pushed technology and development forward at an unprecedented pace in many fields at once. It probably took off with Apple’s introduction of the first iPhone created a booming market for smartphones, and the underlying technology behind this phenomenon. Of course this was followed by Google and Microsoft immediately after, pushing development even faster and further.
This resulted in display technology advancing with leaps and bounds in a very short time. At the same time sensors such as magnetometers, accelerometers and gyroscopes become cheaper, smaller and more precise, again thanks to smartphone advancements. Astronomical sums are now being used to develop mobile technology at a furious pace that does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Along with this development the gaming industry has undergone huge transition from 2D to 3D, which has pushed graphics and GPU developers forward, making it possible to create 3D graphics that are very close to reality. Even with relative cheap home computers and gaming consoles.
In other words, the advancements in different technologies have solved a big part of the problems that made virtual reality completely unachievable and impossible 20 years ago. The technology has simply matured in some areas that can be used in the development of virtual reality. But no one at that time thought of using this technology to revive virtual reality. Or at least no one has made a serious attempt. Until now.
You can read this article about how Oculus Rift came to be: Oculus Rift – Back to the future
Dawn of the new era
So Oculus Rift is a thing now and has support from big developers and massive support from indie developers.
But at this years GDC, both Sony and Oculus VR is rumored to present and demonstrate new virtual reality hardware. Both companies has huge booths this year (Oculus VR 6X last year, and Sony has 2X last year and the biggest overall) and something is definitely going down this year. This definitely looks like a race to be the first and the major player in the future of gaming, and the new era called virtual reality.
And this could be an extremely important battle, defining the future of both gaming and entertainment alike. This is why not being part of this, could determine the future of Microsoft and Nintendo as console makers, and explain why Sony seems (rumors) to be investing massively in this technology. VR could potentially change the face of entertainment, social media and interaction, education and gaming completely.
So is the new era upon us? We’ll probably know in just a week, after GDC 2014. This is by far the most important and interesting GDC so far, so sit back and enjoy the show, I know I’ll be.