VR at the Final Four

The NCAA basketball tournament is one of the most interesting and intriguing tournaments in all of sports. There is a rush of excitement when fans see a buzzer-beating shot or a Cinderella team upset a number one seed. On the contrast, there is a wave of agony and sadness when you see your team knocked out of the tourney. For the past four years, the NCAA, Turner Sports, in partnership with CBS, Oculous, and Intel have been offering fans a front row seat to all the action through the March Madness VR app. VR brings the fans straight to the arena and gives them a chance to follow their team through the tournament. In theory, watching a game in VR sounds amazing but is it really better than keeping up with the action through your television set? Here are some of the pros and cons of going through March Madness in VR.

View from within the March Madness Vr app

During the 2019 NCAA men`s Basketball tournament 21 games were broadcasted in VR including the Final Four and National Championship game. You can find the full list of games here. To get the broadcast in VR you had to own either an Oculus Go headset or a Gear VR headset. Then you would have to go an actually download the free March Madness VR app. Once you have the app downloaded and set up the app you can buy single game tickets for $2.99 or you can gain full tournament access for $9.99. The app also offers game highlights, the ability to view the bracket and view recaps in VR all for free. During the games, you have the ability to switch to multiple different camera angles or allow a director to switch for you. Compared to watching the games on TV this can seem like a lot of work to just get to the experience. On television, you get every single game in the tournament and don’t have to worry about missing any moments. You also don’t have to deal with the headache of setting up the app or paying to see the games. It is nice that the app offers VR highlights for free for those that don`t want to pay but still want to have the experience. The directors cut feature is was also a good idea because some people don’t want to have to worry about switching between camera angles.

Video courtesy of KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

The video above does a good job of showing off some of the features in the app and how the app actually works and functions. One of the main advantages of watching the game in VR is the different camera angles and views you get of the game. There is no way other than in VR to experience a right under the basket shot. I do feel like it can get exhausting to have a headset on for the length of a basketball game compared to watching a game on television. One thing that I hope happens in the near future is an expansion of the app to any mobile device. The app could draw in more viewers if it did not rely on the use of just an Oculus Go headset or a Gear VR headset. You could just have it as an app in the iPhone or Android app store and allow people to use any headset. This will give them much better viewership and more downloads of the app.

The work it takes to bring the tournament in VR is impressive and Intel has done a good job at setting up their cameras. I would suggest buying a single game pass and seeing if you do enjoy watching the game in VR. Then you can decide if you prefer the television view or VR view. If you don’t like the VR view or feel it is not worth the price you can always watch the highlights in VR for free. Overall there are advantages and disadvantages to watching the tournament in VR but everyone should at least try watching one game in VR.