Budget VR Gaming – Is it Doable?

By Pavo Jurkic

June 9, 2019

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budget vr gaming

Today, we’ll be talking about budget VR gaming! The expensive nature of VR equipment is a well-known fact and is probably the biggest reason why this awesome new tech still hasn’t reached the mainstream. But what if I told you VR gaming is no longer an expensive hobby?

What if you could enjoy immersive VR gaming for as little as $200?

Virtual reality has been dubbed as the inevitable revolution in the gaming industry. Back in the ’90s, there were several attempts to bring VR to the masses. Unfortunately, the technology was just not adequate enough to provide a somewhat immersive experience.

Fast forward to 2016, and the technology is finally at a desirable level. VR games look good, tracking and motion implementation finally work properly, and the probability of VR-induced nausea is at an all-time low.

But still, there’s one big issue. Everything is way too pricey.

Fast forward to today, and the situation is a whole lot better. For starters, next-gen VR headset lineups are finally here. We’ve seen two new Oculus devices, Valve Index VR Kit, as well as several Windows Mixed Reality projects. Most of them bring forth massive improvements over the last gen. Superior displays, increased FOV, higher refresh rates, improved motion controllers, and innovative tracking solutions… all these factors have been improved.

And best of all, the prices are set as aggressively as possible.

Budget VR Gaming

In fact, the prices are so low that you can actually start enjoying VR games for less than $200 in some cases. Yes, this is the best-case scenario and won’t be true for many people. The majority will have to spend around $400 for a ground-up VR gaming experience.

However, it’s still insanely cheap, especially considering the prices two or three years ago.

VR Gaming Under $200

Yes, it’s possible to start your VR gaming adventure with as little as $200. However, that’s only possible if you own a PS4. Yes, there are those smartphone-based VR headsets or the highly popular Oculus GO that can be purchased under $200. However, I can’t really recommend them for gaming purposes.

PSVR Example Gif

PSVR makes for a fantastic, affordable plug-and-play headset

VR media consumption, sure. Proper VR gaming, not a chance.

Assuming you already own a PS4, the cheapest way of getting into the immersive world of virtual reality is via PSVR. Used devices can be found for as little as $150 on websites such as eBay or Amazon. With a handful of AAA titles and such a cheap price, PSVR is the obvious choice for budget VR gaming.

Under $400

Moving up the price ladder, we’ll be discussing VR gaming for under $400. Obviously, for this much money, you can set yourself up with PSVR even if you don’t own a PS4 yet. The total cost of a used bundle shouldn’t go upwards of $400.

While I do think PSVR is a solid choice here, there’s a new kid on the playground that can do the same but in a much simpler manner. Meet Oculus Quest! It’s a brand-new VR headset that doesn’t require a beefy rig to operate. That means there are no additional costs (f.e. a VR-ready computer) beyond the Oculus Quest itself. It comes with all necessary cables, two updated motion controllers, and 64GB internal storage for your VR games library. There’s also a 128GB version, but it costs $499, which is above our $400 mark.

If, on the other hand, you already have a solid gaming PC, and the only thing you’re interested in is the actual VR headset, then prepare for an even better experience. The base version of Oculus Rift can be found for under $400. We’re talking new here. However, perhaps it’d be better to try and look for a good deal on used kits.

For example, roughly a year-old Oculus Rift with two motion controllers, an extra base station for room-scale capabilities, and a bunch of games won’t cost you more than $400.

HTC Vive bundles shouldn’t be more expensive, either. Even though both of these devices belong to the first-gen VR lineup, they do have some caveats which aren’t available on the Quest — mainly, better graphics, improved comfort, and more reliable external tracking.

Under $600

We’re already approaching bigger sums of money which ought to provide a better VR gaming experience. For under $600, assuming you don’t have a proper PC, the best option is to go for the 128GB Oculus Quest ($499) and spend the remaining $100 on games.

That’s not the only option, however.

You could also go for a brand-new PS4 and PSVR bundle. They can be found on sale for less than $600, which is a proper bargain. Not only are you getting a solid all-around VR headset but a powerful console with a countless number of thrilling exclusives.

However, if you like the bells and whistles of PC-based VR gaming, there are ways you can get it for less than $600. If you already have a PC, the choices are pretty clear: HTC Vive or Oculus Rift S. Perhaps even the original. New or used? Well, that depends on how good your PC is.

You’ll need at least a GTX 1060 or RX 480. Or an equivalent, a generation older or newer. And, of course, at least a third or fourth generation Core i5 so that you avoid bottlenecks in the future.

A proper entry-level VR GPU can be found for roughly $200 to $250. RX 480 and 580 ought to suffice. The rest of the budget goes to your VR headset of choice. First-gen Oculus Rifts can be found on sale for roughly $350 — just enough not to break our $600 mark.

VR Gaming Under $1,000

Now we’ve reached $1,000, which isn’t exactly the epitome of “budget VR gaming.” If you have this much money stacked away for VR, the best thing you can do is buy Valve Index VR — assuming you already have a beefy PC, of course.

In short, Valve’s brand-new VR headset brings forth the ultimate VR gaming experience with a handful of well-placed innovations such as improved panel resolution, higher refresh rate, superb motion controllers, and impeccable room-scale tracking.

It’s the perfect recipe for the most immersive VR experience out there.

If your gaming PC isn’t capable of supporting Index VR Kit, then you’ll have no other choice but to purchase a new rig (or update your current one) and a brand-new VR Headset. Oculus Rift S or HTC Vive (even Pro) are the main ones to go for.

AIO VR Headsets Are the Future

Judging by the recent trends in VR, standalone devices could be the next big thing in the industry. As you could’ve seen in the price-tier list above, they offer the cheapest solutions for people who don’t own a PS4 or a VR-ready PC. And that’s, believe it or not, the majority of potential VR gamers.

Leaked-Oculus-Quest-Welcome-Video

Part of the leaked Oculus Quest welcome video

Obviously, the release of Oculus Quest will kickstart this standalone VR fad. With powerful hardware, internal tracking, and basically everything you need for VR in a single device, Oculus Quest is a no-brainer for people on a tight budget. Yes, perhaps it’s not as advanced as the likes of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift S, or VALVE Index VR Kit, but for what it’s worth, Oculus Quest brings forth a highly entertaining entrance to the world of VR.

Sure, there are various Windows Mixed Reality devices that go for pretty cheap, but I honestly wouldn’t recommend them, for two reasons, in fact. First, they require a beefy rig, which is an extra expense. Second, their hardware and software background isn’t exactly the greatest.

That said, Oculus Quest seems like a much more viable solution.

So yeah, budget VR gaming really is a thing in 2019. You can go with PC-based, PVSR, or Oculus Quest solutions. Each of them has its own set of virtues and flaws, but the most important factor is still present. They can serve as superb stepping stones for VR and bring it closer to the masses.

That’s the charm of budget VR gaming!

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