Gear VR won’t even be a month old by the time 2015 hits. Despite Samsung and Oculus VR’s smartphone-based virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) being revealed long after the Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus HMDs, it’s beaten both to market with likely almost a year to spare. Of course, in Oculus VR’s eyes, the kit isn’t technically consumer ready yet, with a long list of improvements and fixes still to be made before the company is happy to truly launch it to the masses. Gear VR has a lot of work to do in 2015, then.
As the device stands right now, there are some clear issues that will most certainly be addressed soon. Availability, for example, is strictly limited to the US for now but both Oculus VR and Samsung have said it will roll out to other regions soon. Then there’s the issue of the Oculus Store, which currently only allows for free experiences. Again, premium content is coming but there’s no specific date and most developers are holding back on releasing full experiences until that point.
Once that premium option does arrive, Gear VR promises to be a well-supported platform. In the days, weeks and months following the kit’s reveal a wealth of videogame developers, flimmakers and more have pledged support for the device. Even in the initial weekly store updates there have been titles launching that have previously never been mentioned. The accessibility of the Android platform promises that content droughts likely won’t be an issue with Gear VR, which is a major positive for those tired of waiting for the consumer launches of other HMDs.
Don’t underestimate the draw of VR movies either. Major directors and studios have drawn huge attention towards the platform in recent months, and with Samsung’s 360 degree camera, Project Beyond, also waiting to be deployed, video could be just as big of an appeal to the platform as videogames.
Of course, just how well these videogames and experiences will run on the device remains to be seen. Reports of the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone – with which Gear VR runs – overheating are coming in even when running some of the launch demos, with players being locked out of content when the handset is too hot. As the library grows and titles become more and more ambitious, will the phone be able to keep up?
There’s also the question of just how relevant Gear VR can stay following the launches of both the consumer Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus draw closer. Though Samsung’s device boasts some advantages over these two devices, notably its lack of wires, it simply won’t be able to stack up to the quality of experiences available on both PC and PlayStation 4. Even in the case of the PlayStation 4 and Project Morpheus, there are concerns that the device will be able to power fully immersive VR experiences; can Gear VR really hope to compete in the future?
That said, there’s already plenty of proof that the kit can offer a satisfactory experience at this early stage. And with it looking likely that there might be another iteration of the device next year, potentially to complement a Galaxy Note 5 announcement, Gear VR won’t simply trail behind its contemporaries. Again, though, the prospect of an annual update presents a whole new set of challenges that will need to be crossed when the time comes.
As it stands right now, Gear VR is in a good position. Once it overcomes the early hiccups it’s experienced at launch VR enthusiasts can look forward to a year of new VR experiences as they wait for news on the bigger devices. Just what role Gear VR will play once the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus are in the hands of consumers remains to be seen.