The Future of Virtual Reality Part2
The implications here mean a few things. There are new releases that are VR-friendly, titles that have support for this still niche, fledgling, technology. Hitman 3, for example, with native VR capability can only be played in the technologically inferior PS4, for the VR experiences. These PS4-era titles are at their best, only marginally improved when they are played on the PS5, meaning that there’s very little compulsion for a PS4 VR gamer to upgrade to the PS5 for VR-grounded reasons alone. This refusal to shift and sticking with an older generation platform might demonstrate a type of maturity from the product and its owner-base.
Curiously enough, one of the PS5’s marquee title at launch, was also part of a video game series with connections to VR. The critically acclaimed Astro’s Playroom, didn’t have VR capabilities in the game, despite being a spiritual sequel (almost) to last-gen PSVR platformer, Astro Bot: Rescue Mission.
Again, as we’d stated prior, Astro’s Playroom instead set out to function as a playable demo for the PS5’s innovative and technologically stonking DualSense controller, which has impressive features, consisting of adaptive triggers, and accurate haptic feedback.
Everything done and said, Sony has not completely moved away from VR. Of course not. A couple of years back, in 2019 – just as the 2nd decade of the 21st century was ending, Sony SVP of Research and Development, Dominic Mallinson stated the improvements that were in the pipeline for next-gen VR technology. A plethora of drastic improvements included increased screen resolutions, broader fields of view, wireless headsets (VR tethered headsets had been heavily criticized in the market) and gaze tracking that would detect with accuracy where the player’s eye’s were concentrating on the screen.
Unfortunately, previous year, the organization shut down a Manchester-based studio that was created to develop and produce VR games, but it also filed patents that indicated to potential for a more immersive, motion-sickness proof headset and controllers with increased sensitivity. Bloomberg made a report that the organization had intentions to manufacture a successor to the PSVR – something which seemed specious as only one Sony employment listing backed this up.
However, previous September, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan called VR “an unproven space”. In words to the Washington Post, he shared that he thought we “were more than a few minutes away from the future of VR”. Ryan did reinforce his comments by saying that the organization remained committed to the idea that VR would “one day represent a significant slice of home entertainment” he stated that this day would not dawn until after 2021 (well after?). Could it be this year? 2022? Not probably. But the day will definitely come when we as a society have VR and AR inextricably interwoven with our lives.
The corona virus pandemic has been tough on many industries, technology being one of the worst hit due to persisting chip shortages and the general logistic challenges that a pandemic of this proportion presents. Interactive entertainment as a whole, however, has flourished during the time of the pandemic, particularly in 2020, as players sought refuge from the stringent conditions to the human fancy that the pandemic imposed.
More people were looking to entertain themselves in safe isolation, as more and more indoor pursuits were picked up by audiences. VR is seemingly the perfect antidote to the conditions imposed by the pandemic. This seems like a no-brainer, and something that most companies would have had plans regarding on their drawing boards as it became obvious that the pandemic was going to plunge us into full blown isolation.
That’s what we’d think. It serve to be that antidote, for people who were already setup with it. Year in-review research put out by gaming-oriented Nielsen subsidiary SuperData, 7/10ths of people who owned VR headsets utilized their devices in the previous Spring than they had done prior. Also, owing to a gradual reduction in PSVR sales (focus is shifting to the PS5) VR headset shipments reduced by 15% in contrast with 2019 — the interactive entertainment industry as a whole, however, grew 12% year over year. In December, Principal Analyst at SuperData, Carter Rogers, specified that the organization was estimating a 14% decrease in total VR revenues for 2020, primarily owing to the closure of location-based VR experiences, take for instance, VR arcades, and VR attractions setup in theme parks, carnivals, etc.
It’s not all doom and gloom. SuperData made observations that the premium mobile category of the VR marketplace had “basically died” as platforms evolved, and dropped support for legacy headsets like Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream. However, the sales figures with regards to standalone VR rigs, like Valve’s Index and the Facebook-backed Occulus Quest 2, grew by 19%, nearly 2/10ths, regardless of the fact that the products were usually not in stock owing to setbacks in the production process as an outcome of the pandemic. Electronic game revenue appreciated by 12%, 14% on February’s end, revenues from VR-based games rose a staggering 25%, nearly keeping up with the 28% escalation in premium console earnings.
VR software has received a huge push from the originators of innovation in the gaming PC space. The creators of Half-Life, Valve. Currently not focusing on gaming experiences, due to the focus being on the development and maintenance of the Steam platform – Valve shocked the market by putting out a title, a sequel of sorts, to Half-Life 2, in the form of Half-Life: Alyx. Gaming fans were in for a treat with Alyx, as the wait for the next Half Life proved worthwhile, and Valve continued to innovate in the PC gaming space by putting out innovative experiences first, games later.
There has been talk within the industry of Half-Life: Alyx driving the VR-modding scene, and this is a very delectable proposition for gamers as Valve’s Source Engine and Source Engine 2 are popular with developers for being a mature and easy platform to code for. Needless to say, Alyx has received the tag of “killer app” from the market, and is set to be an inspiration for upcoming titles, and is also, as specified earlier, set to enhance the niche VR modding community. Rogers has stated that it has “rekindled interest in the technology within hardcore gaming circles.”
The duration and stonking production values were the highlight in a market scenario dominated by experiences of much lesser grandeur, however, concerns remained. A bigger install base is very much desirable for the VR market. It would make it possible for devs to focus on bigger-budget, larger scale, VR-only experiences, like Respawn’s Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond and Ubisoft’s future releases of the Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell game series. There are more cannot miss titles from brand-name studios, like the juggernauts behind the GTA game series, Rockstar. They have made inroads into VR, but have trusted its modding community to make GTAVR a reality, potentially due to its parent organization’s long-standing cynicism with regards to VR’s larger scale consumer appeal, and subsequent adoption. Involvement from studios like Rockstar, however, could drive adoption and increase install bases.