Even amongst those of us old enough to remember, most people forget that after the Atari explosion of the 1970s, in the post ET landscape, video games weren’t just dead, they were over.
The masses considered them just another fad, like the hula hoop and the pet rock had been in the decades before.
For me, the reality of just how over it all was struck home when I tried to put a few of my “old” games out for sale at my parents garage sale. My battered copy of Clue went almost instantly, but people avoided my Mattel hand-helds and Microvision cartridges like they secretly contained the plague.
But despite that early downfall, I was convinced that games would make a comeback, and I was busy playing on my Atari 800 with my underground cabal of gamer buddies, until a few years later when the NES changed the landscape of gaming forever.
That machine had a rocky start, being packed with a game-playing robot and marketed to people as almost anything but the game console that it truly was.
But Nintendo refused to give up, and eventually, there came a point where half the homes in America sported the black and white box (although the robot wasn’t as lucky.)
The lesson I learned from living through that experience was that if people believe in the technology long enough and hard enough investor expectations can overtake market forces. Then they can force the potential to manifest, even if the world isn’t quite ready for it yet. To put it another way, if there’s enough potential gold in the mine, they’ll find a way to dig it out.
It’s that same calculus that, I think, has turned me around on virtual reality. Having seen the sheer amount of PR being spilled on VRs behalf, and having some idea of how much has been invested, I think it will succeed. Despite two generations of failure, it seems that virtual reality is now too big to fail.
We like to think that capitalism lets things succeed purely on their merit, but sometimes it’s not market forces that make something “happen,” it’s the sheer amount of investment that has gone into making it happen. It’s a singularity that pushes technology forward despite the consumers unwillingness or lack of desire to play along.
That’s not to say it won’t be a rough ride for the next couple of years as we figure out what people want. But I fully expect we’ll see a lot of American strapping on the goggles over the next half decade, although I’m not quite sure what we’ll all be doing together in there… yet.
Either way, our current innovative technologies are already starting to seem a bit old-fashioned, and it’s just been too long since we first had a fantasy of immersing ourselves completely into the digital world for the world to wait any longer.
This time, it may happen not because we want it, or need it. Instead, someone spent the billion dollars buying a kick-started technology company, and by the gods of technology, they’re going to make the dream come true.