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Why Do VR Games Need More Power Than Other Games?

Why Do VR Games Need More Power Than Other Games

One of the niche markets that you can see emerging in the gaming world today is the use of virtual reality for VR gaming. 

While VR is yet to reach the popularity of conventional gaming, it still is a good experience to try when playing amazing titles that are also VR-compatible

However, one of the things you will instantly notice in relation to VR games is that they usually have higher system requirements compared to non-VR games. 

So, why do VR games need more power than other games?

VR games need more power because of the fact that VR games require more “screen” space in the sense that the larger field of view requires more pixels. More pixels mean: More power! VR games also need to run more smoothly in order to minimize the lag between every movement that you make.

Since VR games are supposed to mimic reality, it is easy then to comprehend the reasons as to why they might require more power out of your computer than your regular games. 

The less responsive a VR game is, the more likely it is that you will end up having an experience that is rather forgettable. 

On the flip side, the more responsive a VR game is (due to a computer having sufficient power resources), the more likely it is that you will have a truer virtual reality experience.

Does VR Require More Power?

As technology keeps on improving, we are now more and more likely to see the things we used to only spot in movies and TV shows. 

Of course, one of those things is virtual reality, or VR.

In many cases, pop culture and mainstream media love to portray VR as a type of technology that can essentially transport  a person’s entire consciousness into an entirely different plane.

Awesome, right?

Today, we have virtual reality mostly in the form of headsets that can be connected to computers. Worn by the user, these headsets then try to simulate the actual environment of the VR-compatible game itself. 

While the VR technology that we have today is admittedly miles away from the VR that pop culture and mainstream media love to show, it is still a good experience to try at least once or twice.

If you are an avid gamer and have found yourself a good game that is compatible with VR headsets, you may then want to purchase a good VR headset such as the ones manufactured by Oculus. 

However, the one thing you need to know here is that there is probably more than just your VR headset and the game when it comes to minimum hardware requirements.

When we are playing different games on our PCs, one of the things we often like to stress is how well the game performs on the current system that we have. 

Now, we all have different systems depending on what our individual purchasing capacities can afford. Some of us here have computers with higher specs, while others are somewhere in the middle.

The point is that specs are important when it comes to the performance of your computer when running a game as different games will have different demands depending on how intensive the graphics are. 

Games that are on the higher side of the graphics scale tend to require computers that have more power. 

On the other hand, games that are on the lower end of the graphics scale can churn out amazing speeds on mid-level computers with just average graphics cards.

So, when it comes to VR gaming, what you need to know is that the specs of your computer also matter. 

Obviously, the more powerful your system is, the better your VR gaming experience will be. 

However, because VR gaming is not the same as conventional gaming, you might be wondering if the demands are different. 

So, do VR games require more power from your computer?

The unfortunate news for those who may be running older and slower systems is that, yes, VR games do require more power from your computer. 

Back in 2016 when VR gaming was still being developed initially, leading GPU manufacturer Nvidia stated that the demands of virtual reality gaming are up to seven times the power requirements of regular gaming.

When you think about it, the fact that VR games have system requirements that are up to seven times can be quite daunting at first. 

However, you have to keep in mind that this was in 2016 when the computer parts were not yet as advanced as they are today. The GPUs, CPUs, and RAMs we have in the present day are much more powerful than they were even one or two years ago.

Still, the point of the matter here is that VR gaming is indeed more demanding than regular gaming. 

True, it might not be as demanding as it once was- but you can still bank on the fact that VR games are going to be several times more demanding than your regular games.

What that basically means is that you need to have a system that can actually handle the VR experience smoothly to the point that there won’t be any lagging or problems with the frame rate.

In most cases, the recommended PC builds for VR gaming require nothing short of an i5 CPU, an RTX 2060 GPU, and at least 8 GB of RAM. 

This build should already be more than enough to churn out amazing frame rates from regular games. Logically, it follows that this build should be able to handle VR gaming well enough too!

If you wanted to know for sure both the minimum and recommended specs for VR gaming, here is what the Oculus Rift S requires:

ComponentMinimum RequirementsRecommended Requirements
CPUIntel i3-6100 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200Intel i5-4590 or AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater
GPUNVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 470 or greaterNVIDIA GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater
RAMAt least 8 GBAt least 8 GB

As you can see, VR gaming isn’t really demanding in terms of its requirements, but it will require more power than most of the regular games that you play on your computer. 

This is why we recommend that you always go above the recommended requirements by going for the more powerful CPUs and GPUs that are available.

You Might Find Interesting: Is It Possible to Set Up an Oculus Quest Without a Phone?

Why Do VR Games Need More Power Than Other Games? 

At this point, you’ll already be well aware of the fact that VR titles actually need more power from your computer than conventional games. 

The previous assertion that VR games need up to seven times the power that normal games do probably doesn’t hold true today, but you can still be sure that VR games are going to be quite a bit more demanding than other games.

But why do VR games need more power than regular non-VR games?

Let’s start by explaining the concept of the entire display of a VR game, as compared to a regular display that you would use when playing non-VR PC games.

There is no need to explain in depth what the screen of a regular game looks like as it is simply what is going to be shown on your monitor. 

The display of a regular game will be confined to the screen that’s right before your eyes. Now, depending on how powerful your monitor is, this could be a regular 1080p monitor, an ultra-wide monitor- or even a 2160p (4K) monitor. 

Regardless, the fact of the matter is that the field of view is still confined to only what is directly in front of you.

If you have ever tried playing games with resolutions that are higher than 1080p, one of the things you will have quickly noticed is that the game requires more power from your system. 

If your computer isn’t capable of providing that power, the game will become marginally slower in terms of its frame rates. 

The reason for this  is that higher resolutions have higher pixel counts. What you then have to keep in mind is that your computer will need more power when it has to process more pixels.

Meanwhile, when you look at how a VR game functions, your field of view is essentially everywhere

This includes not only what’s directly in front of you but also what’s behind, above, and beside you. In most cases, VR games include a 360 field of view that needs to be rendered and processed in real-time.

It is needless to say that, due to how the field of view of a VR game is so much larger than a regular game, the pixelation count will need to be much higher as well. 

In most cases, regular screens process 49,766,400 pixels per second. On the other hand, some VR headsets run up to 233,280,000 pixels per second.

Just by taking a look at that, you can see that some VR headsets run nearly five times as many pixels per second when compared to regular screens. 

Due to the fact that VR games need more pixels due to the larger field of view, it only follows that they would require more power from your computer so that the system can properly render and process the screen. 

Of course this can also depend on other factors, such as the VR games that you play and the exact VR headset that you are using (such as if it is either a HTC Vive or Oculus Quest). 

Still, the point of the matter is that the higher pixelation count involved in VR gaming will require more power from your entire system. 

It’s similar to running a game in 4K, which will immediately demand more power from your computer compared to when you were running the same game in 1080p.. 

Keep in mind though that pixels and screen size aren’t the only reasons why VR games require more power than regular games. 

You also have to consider the fact that the graphics of VR games need to be processed faster compared to your normal non-VR games. Again, we have to dig into the science a bit to understand this.

When you are moving your head in real life, what should happen (fingers crossed) is that what you see with your eyes should be moving nearly simultaneously with the speed at which your head is moving. 

There may be some minor time lag between the movement of your head and how fast your eyes process the movement. Go on, test it out.

Back with us? Good. 

Moving your head around quickly can make you feel sick because your eyes aren’t physically able to keep up with the speed at which your head is moving. 

This also explains why moving at higher speeds, such as when we are in a fast-moving vehicle or on a rollercoaster, can also make us feel sick!

So, going back to VR gaming, when you move your head while you are playing a VR game it should follow that the display should be able to churn out frames quick enough such that the display keeps in time with the movement of your head.

And what happens if your computer isn’t fast enough to keep up with your different head movements while you are playing a VR game?

Imagine again in real life that you turn your head to the right- but what your eyes are seeing is still the same as before you turned your head! That would make you panic, right? 

When that happens your brain will panic as well, and this could make you feel sick and nauseated.

In a VR game, when your computer isn’t fast enough to keep up with how fast your head moves due to a lack of VR-ready resources, your body will also go into panic mode because of the very way that our brains are wired to understand what our eyes see. 

This can essentially make you feel sick while you are in virtual reality, and that’s why it isn’t rare at all for some people to feel dizzy or nauseated in VR.

All this is to say that to make sure that the time lag is as short as possible, a VR game demands a lot from your system. 

While you wouldn’t really mind playing at 30 or 60 FPS when running regular games, those frame rate speeds tend to be too slow for VR gaming. 

That’s why VR gaming requires that you should be able to run up to 90 FPS, at which rate you should be able to properly minimize the time lag between your head movement and the display.

Are VR Games Harder To Run? 

With all that’s been said in this article about VR gaming and how it requires more power from your computer for very compelling reasons, you might now be wondering if VR games are actually harder to run than regular games.

Conventionally, if you have a computer that is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum in terms of its system specs, then it might be true that VR games are harder to run. 

However, as long as you actually hit the recommended system requirements or have a computer that is on the higher end in terms of its specs, then VR games won’t be harder to run when compared to a regular non-VR game with higher system requirements.

What we are saying here is that it all boils down to what your hardware is capable of. 

If you have a system that is powerful enough to handle all of the top games in the industry right now, then you will hardly notice how demanding VR games are in terms of power. 

However, if you do only have a mid-level computer, that is probably when you will notice that VR games are indeed harder to run. It may to time for an upgrade if you want the true virtual reality experience!

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