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Virtual Reality From Your Phablet, The Samsung Gear VR Launches December

A joint-venture between mobile device monolith, Samsung, and the Facebook-owned, Oculus, have come together to introduce virtual reality to mobile devices.

According to a news report from Tom’s Guide, Samsung’s wearable Galaxy Note 4 companion may arrive in early December for around $200, about US$187, and it looks like the device could be out in time for the holidays.

Rumors hint Gear VR's launch to start in South Korea on Dec, 1, just before the holidays
(Image Credit: Tom’s Guide) Rumors hint Gear VR’s launch to start in South Korea on Dec, 1, just before the holidays

This information comes by way of G for Games, which got its hands on an alleged internal customer service document from Samsung. G for Games reports that the document gives retail employees product information ahead of the Gear VR’s launch, and lists the headset as having a South Korean release date of Dec, 1. However, not much details were given on Global release timeframes.

The interesting thing about the Gear VR is that it requires a Galaxy Note 4 smartphone to power the entire rig, which launches in the US on Oct, 17. It’s likely that Samsung wants to give Galaxy fans a few months to adopt its new phablet before launching its Gear VR companion. We can only anticipate eagerly.

Besides the headset, the Samsung Gear VR also comes with a Bluetooth game controller included
(Image Credit: Ars Technica) Besides the headset, the Samsung Gear VR also comes with a Bluetooth game controller included

Accompanying Launch Day Content

Indie game developer E. McNeill, with his unique virtual reality strategy title Darknet, has been picking up a strong following after winning best gameplay at the Proto Awards.

The good news is, he’s intending to launch his cyberpunk game for the Samsung Gear VR and is offering the full game for the bargain price of zero dollars. He intends Darknet to retail for US$10 when the option is available to him.

The studio behind the Apple Design Awards Monument Valley is working on another game title, Land’s End, which will launch for the Samsung Gear VR headset, as reported by Wired. The game’s story takes place on a mystical ocean with several scattered islands, and players must manipulate and navigate the shipwrecked architecture in order to move through worlds.

A gorgeous new VR game from the makers of Monument Valley, created especially for the Samsung Gear VR
A gorgeous new VR game from the makers of Monument Valley, created especially for the Samsung Gear VR (Image Credit: Wired)

The entire render looks gorgeous and it will probably be even more stunning and amazing in its 3D virtual reality. To travel around the archipelago, for instance, you must jump between fallen stars. But you only need to look with Gear VR to move. There’s no screen-tapping required.

Free But Scalable Content

The Gear VR’s digital game store, powered by the Oculus Rift platform, won’t include any monetization options at launch. Details on VR games’ profit-making plans are still sketchy and will be introduced later, probably when the Rift headsets eventually makes it to the shop shelves.

For now, most game designers are working on scalable versions of their games, creating a lite version for Gear VR and prepping their titles to cater for the Rift’s ability to provide a greater immersive experience.

Amidst the fog, some developers have admitted it’s an exercise in making risky content for a risky platform with a risky launch strategy since nothing is concrete yet at the moment.

McNeil, creator of the Darknet game title, feels that giving away his Gear VR game for free isn't a risky move
(Image Credit: Pocket Gamer) McNeil, creator of the Darknet game title, feels that giving away his Gear VR game for free isn’t a risky move

But on the flip side, demos and lite versions for mobile VR will only provide novelty value for short periods of time and game writers understand the psychology of hardcore gamers very well. They agree that virtual reality gamers will be clamoring for something substantial to play.

In the long term, games will only work if it’s actually engaging with good gameplay mechanics bundled with breathtaking graphics, motions and audio, not to forget also the option to release future versions, spin-offs and expansion packs.

So it seems, the current strategy adopted by game developers is to launch a lite version of their games and apps for mobile devices for free and create another one with all the bells and whistles on for the PC versions. Once the high powered and sturdier headsets are made available for consumers, that’s where the money for the games will roll in.

Also read: Samsung Gear VR: The World’s First Date With Virtual Reality

Gear VR could be released in limited sets

Max Cohen, Oculus’s vice-president for mobile, is resigned to the fact that the Gear VR is a niche product, and explains that the objective is not to sell millions of devices this year. This is not something that either Samsung or Oculus is interested in. The Gear VR Innovator edition is instead designed for enthusiasts and developers.

A key reason he cited was that when Apple did their keynote event in September to launch the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the livestream was spilling all over the place with tons of people having problems with the store while trying to order their new iPhones. What that shows is that it’s really hard to service millions of users at once.

The Sydney Apple Store is on the city's busiest street, and the narrow path makes for chaotic scenes
The Sydney Apple Store is on the city’s busiest street, and the narrow path makes for chaotic scenes. (Image Credit: CNET)

But Samsung and Oculus have lofty goals for the Gear VR. The target audience for the device “is everyone”, Cohen says, with the addendum that that’s “as time approaches infinity.” But in the near term, the Gear VR “is absolutely a gaming platform and a media consumption platform.”

Max Cohen’s statement doesn’t explain very much on how the Gear VR will be distributed, at what quantities and at what sort of extended timeframe for future batches, if any, at this point. We can only wait patiently for more updates as the December launch date draws closer, for more concrete news and sneak peeks of the actual consumer Samsung Gear VR headset.

As with all gaming and mobile devices, content is king. Whether a new technology or new hardware becomes a long term darling or sinks faster than the titanic, that is also very much dependent on third-party developers and platforms to imagine and create new ways they can be used.

Also Read: Samsung Gear VR: The World’s First Date With Virtual Reality

 

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