Are Virtual Reality Games Making a Comeback during the Pandemic?
The pandemic as we know it has affected and even changed so to speak "Life As We Know It". There is no guarantee as to whether life will go back to the way it exactly was as even a vaccine is not an all cure guarantee to the different viral strains and variants which have been released to our current world environment. Almost all facets of life have been affected to simple things like going out in public to how the industries that make up the world economies realign themselves to meet the current crisis and demands.
The game industry is no exception. The Pandemic has affected it in both good and unfortunate ways that in order to survive and thrive, the industry is currently in the process of re-adjusting itself regarding it's direction and priorities to meet the still current existing consumer demands in the midst of such a bio-hazard outbreak plaguing the whole world. Things have to be done somewhat quite differently from before as people have to protect themselves from possibly getting infected.
VR gaming and games is of course a part of the game industry and thus affected in it's own and similar ways within the industry as a whole. To answer the question whether VR gaming is making a comeback within the current pandemic, we will have to take a look at the current situation affecting it. VR despite placing the user in an alternative world or environment is still computer gaming, although at a much less volume of sales and game play as compared to the current usual way of playing games which is the computer-monitor-home console- mobile device combination.
For starters, mass gathering is a big No No! So people who cannot avoid situations like this run the risk of being infected and have to deal with the consequences whether they be lucky or not. This means arcade gaming centers have taken a big hit specially in the console arcade gaming industry. One way or the other, viruses can be transmitted even through the coins being inserted into the console slot and wiping the entire console every time a player uses it would be quite taxing for the center crew. VR gaming centers will naturally have a similar problem. The risk of someone touching something which has been accidentally omitted to be dis-infected will always be there. Also player perspiration can seep into the bands or rubber of the HMD and changing the bands every time someone uses it would be an added chore again. So, one can see the point of impracticality and risk. The result, gaming centers are closing down.
The Pandemic has affected regular supply routes and as people start to rely more and more on online transaction and purchases, ordering physical goods can get to be a problem at times. Also, the slowing down of production due to lack of materials and safety precautions that plague manufacturing plants can dwindle the stock of gaming hardware like the Oculus Quest in particular. This will raise prices as well making the product the more inaccessible to many and thus slowing the VR industry down in terms of hardware or gaming devices.
These are examples of the downside affecting VR gaming today. The plus is that people are isolated and cooped up in their homes. Today, many are working yet at a limited capacity with respect to the safety guidelines for every ones well being. The working situation had to adjust a lot in moving many of it's operations into the remote or home-based environment to keep workers safe at home. Even students (the very young as well as the adults) have to rely on home-based and online schooling just to continue with their education. This however has become a tremendous growth opportunity for online and home-based gaming.
Whether one is playing with a computer, a home gaming console, a mobile device or a VR headset, downloading games seems to be the norm these days. As of March 2020, the gaming industry has earned around $10Billion from downloads alone and these of course include VR games. Home gaming is growing and thriving whether online or not. People are stuck at home, getting restless, bored and lonely. Playing games online is a way to socialize with others through the net. Whether it's shooting at each other, playing an online board game, adventuring together or simply chatting the time away, VR has all of these. There are also gamers who stream or record their game plays for others to watch and enjoy online. Twitch streaming has already garnered more than 2.5 million viewers and, that's a lot of views!
If one wants to play offline to ease tension or just to have something to do and not get stressed by thinking and thinking, VR games are there to the rescue. Half-Life Alyx has become a really tremendous hit among the VR crowd. The player base continues to rise and would probably be around 50,000 players or over by now. HL Alyx is not the only popular VR game, there are a lot of sports oriented games like Beat Saber which can really take the stress out through exercise. The list of available VR games (both online and offline) is quite lengthy so a home-based gamer with an available VR headset will have a lot of available gaming experiences to go through.
So, returning to the question as to whether VR gaming is making a comeback this pandemic, that would be both a Yes and a No. Malls, arcade centers, eSports venues and the like, maybe not for some time if ever. Home-based and online gaming, growing and thriving! The Gaming/VR industry is re-calibrating to meet the ongoing demand and in order to survive, it has to do what it has to do.