Over the last decade or so, virtual reality has seen slow but steady growth. With new and exciting hardware already announced and plenty of rumors of what’s to come, 2023 is shaping up to be one of VR’s biggest years yet. No matter the type of gamer, there’s a wide selection of VR games playable across several unique platforms, so there’s something for everybody. With all the options available, it can be daunting to know where to start with VR in 2023.
Whether it’s through PC, console, standalone headsets, or even mobile phones, there are varying levels of complexity and cost to enter the VR arena. On the low end, there are options such as Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR that use a mobile phone as their display. These options, while appealing to some audiences, are meant for the simplest VR available today with only 3 DOF (degrees of freedom). The majority of gamers will certainly want devices with 6 DOF, giving players much more freedom in room-scale environments, along with access to the best VR games.
For those looking for a totally wireless VR gaming experience, there are a couple of standalone headsets available today that offer affordable VR gaming without the need for a powerful PC, external cameras, or a console. The most popular and most prominent standalone VR headset is the Meta Quest 2, which starts at $399.99 USD for the 128 GB model. There’s a 256 GB model for an additional $100, but given the average VR game takes up just 1-2 GB, there is plenty of space in the cheaper version to hold all the desired games and apps.
Meta Quest 2 is one of the most versatile headsets on the market today, and considering many popular VR games are exclusive to the Oculus/Meta platform, the Quest 2 offers a great solution to have the best of both worlds. Firstly, it offers wireless standalone VR with inside-out tracking, which means the headset itself has cameras. These track the controllers and the player’s space in the environment, so there is no need for external cameras.
Secondly, for those with high-end gaming PCs, the Quest 2 can connect to a PC via a supported Link Cable or Air Link. This gives users access to an expanded library of intensive PCVR games such as Half-Life: Alyx and upgraded versions of other games like The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners or Population: ONE. Using the official cable or any of the supported alternatives grants the highest fidelity, while Air Link connects with the PC over Wi-Fi, so there is a varying amount of delay depending on the quality of the connection.
PCVR Offers Higher End Options at a Higher Price
For gamers looking for the highest quality possible when gaming in VR, PCVR headsets are the way to go. These headsets by themselves often cost more than a standalone headset like the Quest 2, so considering a powerful PC is needed as well, the total cost can be significantly greater. For those without a VR-capable gaming PC, expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 – $3,000 or more overall. However, while the Quest 2 is the only major standalone VR headset available in the US, there are many PCVR headsets available that offer their own unique benefits such as higher resolution, higher refresh rate, or a wider field of view.
Due to the vastly larger selection of PCVR headsets available through brands like HTC, Pimax, HP, Oculus (Meta), and Valve, newcomers will ultimately need to decide what’s most important to them and especially what they’re willing to spend. There are numerous high-end options that go well above $1,000 USD, but there are also plenty more affordable options that fall under four digits. The Valve Index set the gold standard for PCVR when it was released, offering a 130-degree FOV and up to 144Hz right at that $999 mark for the headset, controllers, and base stations. The controllers for the Index are also fantastic, as they offer wrist straps and full finger tracking.
For one of the best overall PCVR values, the HP Reverb G2 is a great option with an exceptional display and easy setup. It uses inside-out tracking cameras, so there are no external base stations or a bunch of extra cables to deal with. While the G2’s 90Hz refresh rate and 114-degree FOV are a fairly significant step down from the Valve Index, it comes in at only $599. This makes the G2 one of the cheaper PCVR headsets on the market and its 2160×2160 per-eye resolution is great for all types of content.
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PS VR and What’s in Store for 2023
While Microsoft has invested more in mixed reality than VR gaming, Sony has demonstrated a major commitment to VR. The original PS VR was released in 2016 and allowed PlayStation 4 gamers to experience VR. The upcoming PS VR2 is set to release for PlayStation 5 on February 22, 2023, with impressive specs and exciting features like foveated rendering and controllers with haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. The new headset will be exclusive to the PS5 console and is currently available for pre-order starting at $549.99 with a bundle option and controller charging station available to order as well.
As for the rest of 2023, it is expected that the Meta Quest 3 will launch during the year, although it’s unknown when that will be. A high-end AR/VR headset from Apple is supposed to release in 2023 as well, which is meant to rival the newly-released Meta Quest Pro. At $1,499, the Quest Pro is significantly thinner and lighter than the Quest 2 and features advanced tracking for eyes and facial gestures. It also comes with controllers that each have their own cameras and processors, which are essentially mini-Quest 2’s on their own. The Quest Pro is meant for more business-oriented enthusiasts than gamers, so consumers should expect the same from Apple’s offering.
VR gaming has been in somewhat of a transition phase the past couple of years, as the hardware hasn’t taken many significant leaps recently and the biggest hits have been few and far between. However, more companies are discussing the potential uses of the Metaverse and the effects it will have on social interaction, media consumption, and gaming. This opens the door for more competition, which in turn breeds innovation. 2023 is looking to be one of the best years yet to get into VR, and gamers have plenty of choices no matter where they want to begin.
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