CES isn’t typically a place where you go to find the latest in video games or video game tech, but this year was a bit different. Why? Two letters. V and R.
I’ll get to the VR stuff in just a minute, but first there were a couple other video game related items at CES that are worthy of your attention.
Alienware was showing their Alienware 13 gaming laptop featuring an OLED screen. OLED, or Organic Light Emitting Diode, is a true LED display, meaning that each spot on the screen emits light when electrical current is applied to it.
And THAT means no backlighting. Deeper blacks, more vibrant color. OLED screens are just better. Why haven’t we seen them before this? Cost. They are expensive. But prices are dropping now to the point that we’re starting to see them on premium gaming brands like Alienware. The really good news is that the OLED screen doesn’t increase the price of this laptop.
ASUS unveiled their new line of ROG (that’s Republic of Gamers) devices. Two things that caught my eye were the GX700 laptop and the XG2 docking station.
The GX700 is a gaming laptop that features a detachable water cooling system. When you’re docked with all that extra cooling power, the laptop can be configured in the BIOS for overclocking, yielding a strong performance boost. The GX700 also includes an NVIDIA GTX980 GPU. Notice I didn’t say 980M. We’re talking a full on desktop graphics card, in a laptop. Of course, you need to lug around that external water cooling system if you don’t want to MELT that laptop, but finally you have some choices.
The XG2 docking station for your ASUS laptop lets you have an NVIDIA or AMD graphics card in the docking station, and use that whenever you dock your laptop for playing games. So you don’t have to carry a nuclear powered gaming notebook, sucking up battery life and broiling thighs wherever it goes, but you can still have some sharp game play back at the ranch.
So, about that VR. Virtual reality headsets. Or is that hype-sets? CES was swamped with them. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, and the Avegant Glyph were all seen at CES.
The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are straight up gaming devices. They cover your eyes and drop you right into the video game. You look around by looking around, and you can control things by moving. Want to swing that sword? Well swing away! Of course you’ll need a motion controller and a compatible game, for that. HTC even has an optional “Chaperone” device for the Vive to keep you from slamming into your furniture while you play.
The Gear VR from Samsung works with their smartphones, and thus mobile games. Because it’s using your Samsung smartphone as its brain, the device only sells for $160. I suppose if you just HAVE to have your Candy Crush in virtual reality, that might be worth it.
The Avegant Glyph is really a home theater device, so I’ll leave it to the rest of the Into Tomorrow crew to evaluate the entertainment tech.
But the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are aimed at PC gamers. They connect to your computer (and it better be a strong one) and provide a virtual reality display for any games you play. Of course, the best experience are games with native VR support. Just because you have the hardware doesn’t mean all your existing game titles will suddenly and smoothly become VR titles.
The biggest hot potato, however, is price. The consumer edition of the Oculus Rift is priced at $500 and they make no excuses for that. HTC is being coy on the Vive price, but I’m guessing it will be at least as much as the Oculus, if not a bit more.
Folks, that’s just plain expensive, for a gaming peripheral that isn’t required. Gamers are a competitive bunch. If your $500 accessory lets me win, that’s great, but if it’s just the latest shiny gadget, that’s a lot of cash to pay for shiny.
I could be wrong, of course. I’ve been wrong before. But I just feel like VR headsets, for gamers at least, cost too much. They are the 3D HDTV of video games, and eventually we will see if they sell enough to create a place for themselves in the video gamer techverse.
That’s Into Gaming, I’m Mark Lautenschlager.