The VR industry is full of veterans from every walk of life. We have the biggest social minds from Facebook such as Mark Zuckerberg, top animators from Pixar and DreamWorks such as Eric Darnell, top innovators and engineers from Microsoft such as Alex Kipman, and even Iron Man movie director, Jon Favreau. So then, why does it feel like there’s still something missing in VR?
What we’re missing
Well this has to do with the lack of content, or rather the lack of quality content available on all platforms. See, I’m a believer of exclusive content as it helps drives sales and helps create a sense of virality and loyalty towards a brand.
In this instance, I’d like to examine “The Last of Us” with its exclusivity to PlayStation. When the game first came out, I didn’t own a PlayStation. I was rather a fan of the Xbox. But Xbox players weren’t able to play the game due to its exclusivity to the PlayStation console. This definitely irritated me and I spoke against Sony for doing that. But a few days after its initial launch, I became curious as to why it was receiving such great reviews.
So i went online and began searching on YouTube for gameplay and walkthroughs. This was the first time I stumbled upon the most famous YouTuber today, PewDiePie. His video was the first to pop up where he provided a walkthrough of the game. I believe The Last of Us has actually been the game to catapulted him to where he is today. He did a terrific job where I felt an emotional connection to the game.
As a matter of fact, the gameplay was so compelling that I went out and actually bought a PlayStation when I already owned an Xbox. At that time, that was a lot of money but content was what drew me to adopt the Sony console.
I think that same analogy can be applied in our current situation. Currently, there are two clear leaders when it comes to high-end PC based VR headsets: HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The two companies have done a terrific job thus far launching new types of hardware these last two years. It’s a daunting task to launch something that consumers have never owned before. So that adoption process will take some time within the consumer market. There’s no problem with that. What we have to analyze is if there’s enough compelling VR experiences today that warrants the effects of what I felt with The Last of Us and PlayStation.
My conclusion to that is no, we don’t have that compelling driver just yet. And I believe that it won’t come with the upcoming AAA VR titles such as Fallout 4 VR, Skyrim VR, or DOOM VFR either. The closest we’ve gotten was with Lone Echo and Echo Arena which provided a fresh take to VR gaming. I actually had a great discussion about some of this with the creators of the game from Ready at Dawn studios.
No More FPS For Now
The VR market is saturated with FPS games. While its an enjoyable experience, the idea of shooting and blasting away gets repetitive and almost tiresome to the point that I don’t enjoy playing VR games anymore. This may not be the same case for others but I have to condition myself before jumping into another shooter game to review.
I’m not saying that there aren’t good story driven games in VR. Actually there are a lot available, most recently with The Invisible Hours. The game provides a certain sense of mystery and character development that creates an emotional connection. I think we need to see more of that.
But some of the limitations we face today are what’s holding this back. When talking to the founder at Ready at Dawn, we discussed some of the problems and pain points in VR. One of them has to do with budgets.
AAA games take a lot of investment and that is far too risky right now in the VR market. Investors within the gaming sector are not yet 100% sold on investing into VR games. There are limitations in both graphics and hardware that holds some of these companies back from working on immersive projects.
Many people face motion sickness when playing VR games which has a lot to do with frame-rate and load. We haven’t perfected the art of VR to the level of console gameplay nor will we in the next two years. It will take time.
Another huge component has to do with the lack of consumer market within VR. There aren’t enough PC based VR users yet that allows these companies to make enough ROI. They’d actually be losing money if they were to release a big-budgeted VR game. That’s why Oculus is currently releasing exclusive VR games as they can help fund these projects.
A Dose Of Solution
Budgets and the lack of a consumer market within PC based VR headsets are definitely big limitations and hurdles. For us to see games such as The Last of Us in VR will require early investing and experimenting by the leaders of the gaming industry.
Big gaming studios who are currently on the fence about VR should invest early into VR experimentations and build-outs. VR is the platform of the future as it allows creators infinite possibilities in immersive settings. There will be some mind-blowing experiences in the future that we’ve never even dreamed of.
Look at Rocket League for example. An indie studio launched a creative way to play soccer with the use of cars to score points. It didn’t require a big budget nor FPS gameplay to achieve that. It just required experimenting and research development.
VR is progressing quite rapidly and experimenting within the VR realm through amazing platforms such as Unity and Unreal Engine should be done by all big studios. I’m not saying that they aren’t already doing that; some studios might actually be doing that right now as I write.
But the way that consumers will adopt VR will be through compelling content rather than hardware. This is what’s currently missing in VR. The first studio to launch that influential VR experience will be the first to hit gold in the wild wild west and we’re looking forward to embracing that.