Where Is VR's Killer, Must-Play Game?

In the last few months I've spent a fair amount of time in virtual reality. I've played a bunch of games which are really fun, used several interesting apps, and experienced other forms of non-interactive entertainment. Personally, I'm sold on the technology, and I'm excited to see where it goes in the future. However, I'm in the minority of people.

This is definitely the year of VR, with three major (non-mobile) headsets coming out this year, it's poised to potentially revolutionize the way we play games and experience life. But there are still some hurdles that the industry faces. Namely, why should the average person want to pay hundreds of dollars for a device, and even more than that, for a machine that can run it?

Virtual reality is a lot like The Matrix. No one can be told what virtual reality is. You have to see it for yourself. So how do you get people excited about something that's really hard to describe? Well, normally you'd just show them a picture or a video. But even that's hard to do with VR.

While I did have experience with one of the first Oculus Rift kits, I was still lukewarm about VR until this past January. I'd watched a number of demos on YouTube, and they just didn't excite me all that much. One such experience was Bullet Train. I watched the demo, and it didn't really do much for me. But when I strapped into the Rift and tried it for myself, it blew me away.

VR's Secret Sweet Spot: The Mundane

The obvious solution is to get more people to strap on a headset and just experience something fun. But the difficulty there is that not a lot of people are going to even have them for a while. While the first headsets are shipping, they're only trickling out to the early adopters. And even then, the number of headsets in the wild will be fairly insignificant, when compared to other gaming devices.

So what does VR need in order for people to get excited about it? It needs a killer app. It needs a single game, or other experience that people just can't stop talking about. Something that appeals to a broad audience, and makes them excited to be able to finally try it out. The sort of thing that people would talk about around the watercooler, or at family gatherings.

The trouble is, there isn't anything like that. Yes, there are fun games, and good experiences. However, there isn't anything specific that people can't stop talking about. Every generation of gaming consoles has had that one defining game that showcases the technology, and makes people flock to it. Pong, Sonic the Hedgehog, any Mario game that was available as a launch title. These games helped to drive people to adopt the hardware.

The key element here is that the game, or experience (as it doesn't necessarily need to be a game) needs to be something that nearly anyone can pick up and enjoy, with very little coaching, or prior experience to enjoy. I don't doubt that we will see something like this come out sometime over the course of the year, but at this time, it seems to remain absent. There are still plenty of games and experiences to enjoy, but as of now, there's no killer app, must-play game, or must-see experience.