VR: Is Mobile VR Currently Worth Buying Into?

July 28, 2017 - Written By Justin Diaz

Virtual reality, despite its growth since the first VR headsets started hitting the market, is still very much in its infancy and it will still take some time for it to mature into something that the majority of consumers are likely to show interest in. There’s no denying that VR has touched the hearts and minds of those who consider themselves big tech enthusiasts that are eager to test out anything which could be considered on the bleeding edge. VR isn’t really on the bleeding edge anymore now that it’s been around for a couple of years and there is more content than ever to enjoy, but it’s still new enough that it hasn’t reached mainstream adoption. There’s more than one reason for this, and a big one is content. Of course, there is plenty of content for PC-based VR headsets, but the same can’t be said for mobile VR. That isn’t to say that there isn’t any available at all, just that there isn’t enough of it and there needs to be more. With that in mind, it begs the question of whether or not mobile VR headsets are worth investing in at this point in time, or if it might be better to wait until things are more fleshed out.

Truly, this is something that consumers will have to answer on their own individually, as the value one might see in the investment may not be there for others. That being said, there are a few things to consider that could help to answer that question. The first is whether the price is right for you. Mobile VR can be picked up in headsets as cheap as $9. All you need to do is dig around on Amazon and you’ll find loads of headsets that are inexpensive options, most of them based on Google’s Cardboard design. Granted, you aren’t going to get the best VR experience with something that costs $9, but the option is there and if you’ve never used a VR headset before and would prefer to edge your way in, it’s hard to argue that there isn’t a better option for testing the waters just to see what’s out there.

Beyond price, another thing to consider is whether you would use a mobile VR headset the way it was intended, which is in a mobile environment, or essentially away from home, or at the very least in a room where you aren’t tethered to a PC or console. If you aren’t planning on using a mobile VR headset anywhere you can, is it really worth it? At the cost of the headset options you have in the mobile space, many of which come in at under $100, even limited use may still offer some value.

The biggest factor is one that has been touched on many times and not just with VR, but with any hardware that would allow you to experience digital media and games – the content. No matter how well-made a mobile VR headset is, no matter how compatible it is with a number of devices out there, and no matter how comfortable or how affordable, if there isn’t enough content to enjoy then what’s the point? Options like the Gear VR with controller might be the best mobile headset option due to its affordable price point and its list of available content, thanks in no small part to Samsung’s partnership with Oculus which provides the software side of things. However, if you compare what’s available from Oculus on the Gear VR to what’s available for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, there’s a huge gap in what you have at your fingertips. The Daydream View is another story entirely as it offers even less content, and not just less than the Gear VR but less than Cardboard, which is the most simplistic of VR experiences out there.

If you look at the Daydream app and sift through the games, there’s about 100 titles there. That might seem like a lot, but if you compare it to what’s available on Steam, there are 17 pages of just the new release titles alone, with 14 titles per page. That’s 238 titles in just new releases, and almost triple the amount of the entire catalog of games for Daydream. There’s also the issue of quality. While there are certainly some quality game titles for Daydream, many of them are low quality and asking ridiculous prices for what you’re getting. Titles like “Shoot Fireworks VR” for $3.49, where literally all you do is shoot off fireworks with the controller. There’s also titles like “Fidget Spinner VR,” which, is free, but even at the cost of absolutely nothing it’s unlikely to offer any value to the majority of those with a Daydream View headset, and therein lies probably the biggest issue with mobile VR right now. There just isn’t enough good content to keep users engaged, and until there is a large number of consumers will no doubt find it difficult to see the value in stepping into the VR space.

Of course, everyone is different and some might find the value in investing in mobile VR even this early on as it might be fun just to check out what’s available. This all depends on what you personally enjoy, and how much you’re willing to spend, and what device you own as each headset for mobile devices is going to be compatible with a different range of smartphones. So while it might be worth investing in for some, it’s certainly not going to be worth it for others, and chances are the majority of consumers who could pick up a mobile VR headset right now won’t, at least not until there is more content available. Options like the recently announced standalone mobile VR headset from HTC which is heading to China are no doubt going to open things up a bit more, so perhaps if there is any mobile VR headset that is worth looking into, it’ll be headsets that are similar to this one from HTC, so long as they offer the content to go along with the hardware.