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Welcome to the (First) Year of Virtual Reality

Happy new year. Should VR's old failures be forgot, and never brought to mind?

Brett Garling for Re/code

This week is E3, the gaming convention and/or marketing orgy that has become a perverse commercial holiday for game companies and their fans. It’s the starting pistol for a whole year of game buying decisions, and there’s no reason to expect that this year will be any less bombastic than its predecessors.

But listen! Do you smell something? The big players here at E3 are still largely tracing tried-and-true paths, yet there’s something faintly different in the air. It’s virtual reality.

The only safe bet in VR right now is that it’s not a sure thing. And it seems very unlikely that the nascent technology will render obsolete today’s consoles and gamepads, PCs and keyboards or, uh … tablets and fingers?

But after years (decades, for the really hardcore VR believers) of inertia, several major gaming and tech companies have pumped billions of dollars into the field, in the hopes of being ahead of the curve with what today’s E3 crowd will crave in the near future.

And really, gamers are a natural first audience for virtual reality, even if the technology can aspire to bigger things.

It’s no accident that, last week, Oculus finally committed to a controller that will be included with every Rift VR headset it sells: The Xbox One gamepad. The design is familiar to millions of people, not to mention the developers who will be making the first VR games.

The surface-level appeal of VR for gaming applications is straightforward enough, if you’ve had the chance to try a headset for yourself: More immersive experiences in meticulously crafted virtual worlds? Shut up and take my money.

But enticing consumers who don’t already “get it” will be a challenge. I’ve already invested hundreds of dollars into my PlayStation 4, including software and controllers — now, two years later, Sony wants me to invest hundreds more on Project Morpheus? Those better be some good games.

Also intriguing, though likely further off from consumer deployment, are augmented reality glasses like Microsoft’s HoloLens. All told, some 27 companies at E3 will be exhibiting VR or AR demos, according to the Electronic Software Association.

What effect will these new devices have on what we play and how we play it? How many developers will commit to making software based on this largely still-ethereal hype? Will we see anything this week that makes a VR future seem any more certain?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

But we’ll be listening closely on the front lines of E3. Stay tuned for more.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.