It Could Be 5+ Years Before VR Becomes Mainstream, Oculus Rift Creator Says

But that's OK, because selling to Facebook allows Oculus to play the long game, Palmer Luckey says.

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Oculus VR's ambition to have a virtual reality headset in every home is a bold claim, and one that might not come to fruition anytime soon, according to Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey. In an interview with GamesIndustry International, Luckey said this is OK because having the backing of Facebook gives the company enough immediate stability to think about what's best for VR in the long-term.

"It might be next year, it might be five years from now," Luckey said about when VR might become mainstream. "Maybe VR doesn't really take off for consumers for some time. But the good news at having such a big backer behind us is that we can now afford to play that long game. Rather than having to make money now or we stop existing and someone else takes over, we can think about the best thing to do for the long-term of virtual reality."

The consumer version of Oculus Rift is likely to be released by the end of 2015. In terms of pricing, we know it will be "affordable" (the latest developer model sells for $350), but Oculus VR has not announced further details. Similarly, Sony's PlayStation 4 VR headset--Project Morpheus--is unlikely to be released publicly anytime soon, and pricing details are also a mystery.

"With publishing, it's not just about what shows off the tech; it's about what is actually going to make people go out and buy a Rift" -- Nate Mitchell

Another issue facing Oculus Rift is that of content. People won't buy an Oculus Rift if the platform is lacking compelling software, according to vice president of product, Nate Mitchell.

"For this platform to be as great as it can be, it's all about content," he said. "With publishing, it's not just about what shows off the tech; it's about what is actually going to make people go out and buy a Rift. And that's been one of the gating factors to the consumer version, in the sense that a lot of people would buy the [latest Oculus Rift development kit] right now. But if you did that you would have no games to play. We need to help seed the ecosystem and remove that risk for developers. [That's] super important."

In April, Luckey said Oculus VR's partnership with Facebook allows the company to sign deals with independent studios to make VR games. Words with Friends creator Paul Bettner is one such developer; he's bringing a third-person game, Lucky's Tale, exclusively to Oculus Rift.

Also in the interview, Luckey said the fact that most VR game demos today require a controller is a less-than-ideal situation. A better solution would be some type of full-body control system, he said (Oculus VR is rumored to be working on its own special controller). However, designing games in such a way is no easy task, as it would require game developers to essentially re-learn their craft.

"Controllers are a necessary abstraction right now, but a controller is not the ideal VR input," Luckey said. "You want something that's able to track your body movements, by haptic feedback and all these different things. But it's very challenging to do that, because people have been designing games for traditional controllers for a long time. So it's something that we're actively researching and developing, but I don't think a controller is going to be the answer for VR--at least, not the kind that people are traditionally using. It just makes sense for right now, because it's something that everybody has."

Of course, Oculus Rift is not just for games. The company contends that the technology has the potential to be a major player for industries like film and education. Luckey even maintains that one day it might be considered financially irresponsible to attend a business meeting in person when you could just simulate that sit-down in VR.

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