Game controllers have had rumble or vibration since Nintendo created the Rumble Pak for the Nintendo 64, so why doesn’t the rest of your gaming gear have haptic feedback for greater immersion?
Honestly, that’s the big question I wondered myself as I sat in front of Razer’s new 27-inch gaming monitor and shot a bunch of enemies in Overwatch and Doom and felt every gunfire and movement via vibrations tucked within its concept gaming chair, keyboard wrist rest pad, gaming mouse, and Nari Ultimate haptic-feedback headphones.
Cinemas have long tried to convince moviegoers to pay extra for a “4D” or haptic-based experience where the seat vibrates in unison with the action on screen. So why not bring this experience to gamers?
When I asked a Razer product manager during a briefing at CES 2019, he shrugged and said he wasn’t sure why nobody beat them to the idea.
While only concept products at the moment, my brief time feeling vibrations from the haptic motors embedded within the back of a gaming chair, along the wrist rest pad attached to a gaming keyboard, within a gaming mouse, and ear-to-ear across my face convinced me there’s more to upping gaming experience than simply hyping up refresh rates, HDR, higher resolutions, or even more realistic textures.
VR and 3D aside, gaming is mostly done in in 2D. But an immersive experience can extend beyond the screen into the tangible — actions experienced through the senses — and add new depth.
Besides sight and sound, touch is frontier that can be tapped into to make you feel like you’re inside of the game. (One day some company will no doubt add smell and taste to gaming, but for now touch seem to be the most hygienic.)
The Nari Ultimate gaming headphones teased Razer’s interest in turning sound into haptic feedback. The next logical step is to include this same “Hypersense” haptic tech in all of the other gaming gear, like your chair and mouse to take this tactility to another level.
It’s difficult to describe how Hypersense really feels without you actually experiencing the feedback yourself. What I can say is it doesn’t feel cheap or lifeless like the Kor-Fx haptic gaming vest I reviewed years ago.
The vibrations are less of a monotone rumble and more delicate like the sensitive HD Rumble vibrations within the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con controllers. This is because the vibrations are all based off the game’s sound effects. A short jump would produce a softer vibration than a deep fall and a shot in the arm with a shot gun would feel harsher than a pistol.
This is what an integrated gaming experience feels like — one where all of the gear is synced with RGB lighting to the game and augmented with haptic feedback. I liken it to using a controller with rumble and then just hating your non-rumble controller afterwards. Once you feel vibrations after landing from a jump or the reverb from a rocket launcher, it’s hard to go back to anything else.
Razer loves to come to CES and trot out wild concepts like its triple-screen laptop, or a laptop that docks the Razer Phone, or a projector that extends your gaming beyond the TV and onto your walls. Most of these never see a commercial release. But the Hypersense concept products are far more realistic and feasible than past concepts.
Razer already sells the Nari Ultimate headphones for $199 with sound-based haptic feedback. Price out your favorite gaming chair, Razer mouse, and gaming wrist pad and then add a premium to it — a “Razer tax” if you can probably come to a good number for how much these device would cost ya.
If these products ever become a reality, they won’t come cheap. Developers will also need to get onboard with adding rumble to all of these accessories and the return might not be very high for adding such functionality in for a niche user base. Razer says it’s already talking to several software developers and programming support wouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
The demand needs to exist first, though. Judging by the huge and loyal cult following Razer has amassed over the last decade, I’d say gamers are gonna want these Hypersense products once they try them.