Virtual reality is about to move out of the world of test labs and selected previews, and become a fully fledged retail product like any other gaming platform.
In the next six months, Facebook-owned Oculus and Samsung are expected to release the Gear VR, an Oculus-made virtual reality headset for Samsung phones, while HTC and Valve say their Vive VR system will also be on the market. And by the first half of 2016, Sony's Project Morpheus for the PlayStation 4 will have its final name and be on shelves, as will Oculus' Rift headset for PCs.
And while these initial releases will be aimed at early adopters—people who aren't afraid to spend more, and are often tastemakers—companies expect to sell many millions of units within a few short years.
And videogame developers are getting ready for that surge in interest.
"As we create worlds, it gives us a chance to explore them totally differently, with an interface that is unique," says Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft, which showed off a number of VR demos at this year's E3. "I think adoption will be a little like consoles—not this last generation, but the one before. We'll see 2 or 3 [million headsets sold] in the first couple of years, then 5-10 million per year."
Ubisoft is one of the largest independent game publishers that has fully voiced its support for the medium, but smaller studios—including Guerrilla Games (makers of the "Killzone" series) and 505 Games—are also looking to claim early footholds.
Other large, publicly traded studios, though, are still taking a more conservative approach.
"I'm open minded and potentially excited," says Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software. " I think the same questions remain: How long will people want a vision-occluding device on their head? What does it mean for your interactions with other people? How will I feel? Will there be any discomfort? How long an experience will it be? ... [But] we're doing plenty of R&D; we expect to be in the market if the market develops."
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One of the biggest expected hurdles facing VR is pricing. Early, limited release versions of Gear VR have required Samsung's top-of-the-line phones. And the minimum PC specs for Oculus Rift are high, requiring people to spend heavily on their PC. HTC and Valve haven't given any hints yet, nor has Sony, though the maker of the PS4 is hoping to lure in a larger audience at a faster pace than some of its VR competitors.