The Virtuix Omni: the next level of immersive gameplay.
In case you don’t want to watch the above video (which I highly suggest, it’s pretty exciting), the Virtuix Omni is basically a (relatively) small treadmill-like platform which you walk on in order to walk in the game. It comes with special shoes and maybe a gun accessory as well.
Virtual reality seems to be just around the corner, especially with the pairing of the Virtuix Omni and the Occulus Rift. Can it catch on though?
This hardware seems to be geared toward a single player experience. Only one person can use the Occulus Rift and the Virtuix Omni at a time, which is fine of course; I think everyone enjoys single-player gaming escapism once in a while, if not more often. However, at its price. which is at least $500 USD per Virtuix (not including the Occulus) is steep for a game peripheral that would be used on top of already-expensive gaming hardware. When making these kinds of gaming investments, most people would want a sort of validation from their peers; they would want to be able to experience it personally with others so that it can be enjoyed with them and doesn’t involve the always-unpleasant “taking turns”- especially when you can’t even watch your friend play (because of the Occulus). Reasons like this are why the Kinect was a monetary success (if not in other areas)- it could be a social experience. I don’t think people would drop such large amounts of money on this Virtuix Omni, on top of the price of the Occulus, in order to use it without a friend or two to share the experience with. (Edit: To be clear, I’m talking about local multiplayer, not online)
"But it would work fine with online multiplayer games! Who cares about splitscreen?"
Well, a lot of people care about split-screen gaming. Some online polls such as this one even deem it to be preferable over online gaming. Online gaming is fun; I don’t think anyone has a dislike for it. But it doesn’t beat sitting next to a good friend or family member and spending time together, in person, playing your favorite games.
Another issue: will there be games for this? Surely there will be the everyday shooter or first person adventure game, but good luck playing anything else. This isn’t a problem that could be easily solved, either. Sure, developers could create games specifically for the Occulus and Omni combo, even if they have to invent a new genre of games to do so, but they won’t. Far too few people will own the hardware, let alone both pieces on top of their already expensive gaming systems, to warrant production of a game designed around them; the amount of potential customers would be absurdly low. Other kinds of peripherals could be used too, such as Wiimotes, to integrate new styles of gameplay with the machines as well, but again this is just slimming down the amount of potential players even further.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the hardware will be too faulty for gaming. I’m fairly convinced that this could be a very good product that would be immensely enjoyable to use and could function phenomenally. But it just has too many things working against it. Another major roadblock is the size of the Virtuix. Despite its relatively small size, most people still just don’t have the space for such colossal hardware. The average living room or bedroom in which someone plays their games would not be able to house such a large piece of equipment comfortably. Nor would the average person’s wallet be able to afford all of the required peripherals, and nor would the average person’s mind be willing to drop such colossal amounts of money on something that is only to be experienced alone.
So yeah, I don’t think the Virtuix Omni can survive. I think the hardware is more suited for a kind of rental model. Maybe if small businesses developed to allow you to rent the use of a Virtuix that they own to play certain games on it on the business’s premises, it could work. but beyond that sort of business model, if even that could survive, I can’t see this turning out well. I hope I’m wrong.
PS: I don’t think this is as big of an issue for the Occulus Rift alone. It is cheaper and smaller than the Virtuix Omni and doesn’t rely on any other peripherals.