VR doesn’t need Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, or any other AAA titles for that matter. While they do need AAA-like experiences, they don’t need a haphazard port of the next adventure through time in the fight against Abstergo. This would actually hurt VR in the gaming community more than we think, causing irreparable damage to the larger platform of Virtual and Augmented Reality.
While it’s nice to think that we matter – and we do from a unit movement standpoint – gamers will not factor into the widespread adoption of VR in the way we currently think we will. A little bit ago, Steve put up an interesting piece about VR and the need for AAA titles. I simply think he’s wrong, and it took me a little bit to get my thoughts together but here’s why; VR isn’t a place for Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or any of the other juggernauts to be right away. VR needs to be different, it needs to be a true escape, an actual and (forgive the PR buzzword) visceral experience.
VR will serve a whole new ground for a lot of people. If you take tried and true controller/TV experiences like the COD’s and AC’s and whatever other acronyms we have for AAA games now, you’ll find that the controller and television barrier is necessary. Imagine if you will whipping your head around as quickly as you move the right stick in Call of Duty. Now imagine how many precious vertebrae you’ll grind into sweet bone dust in the process, not to mention the nearly inevitable puddle of vomit you’ll find yourself in. Graphic maybe, plausible? Probably.
Take things from this perspective instead; VR will serve as an experience first, game platform second (possibly even third or lower down the list). Here’s how it’ll go down; First you’ll have your tech enthusiasts picking it up. Those folks are going to be the ones dying to show it to mom, brother, sister, uncle, cousin, anyone that will give them ten minutes to try to cook something in a VR kitchen, or walk through the cherry blossoms, or see their childhood home in VR after ten years away. These are the moments that make believers out of the skeptic. This is evidenced by the shocking to some, but completely in the ballpark price point for the Oculus consumer level kit. While we can save the price point argument for another article, the fact that you have to have a fairly powerful/recent PC to run what Oculus is trying to put together should surprise no one. Shocker – new tech and hardware requires some recent tech and hardware…weird.
Next you’ll have medical professionals, startups, tech companies, architects, drafting companies – the people that apply these devices in ways we’re only scratching the surface of now. Speaking of Surface ™ Microsoft’s AR headset – Hololens is going to apply to these crowds in perhaps the best way; as a vital tool. Come with me on a journey back to the Hololens debut. When the headset was debuted, sure the Minecraft stuff was cool – but what really stood out to me was the 3D modeling and design applications. Auto companies like Mercedes, Ford, or the other litany of makers can now have their engineers step into their visions. Concept becomes reality faster than ever with Hololens. Check out the Hololens page, there’s an entire section dedicated to “commercial possibilities”. If I’m hedging bets on where the early adopters, and most lucrative applications for my headset are, it’s here.
Medical professionals can practice, and even execute advances procedures in a space that models their surroundings in real time with less intrusion – meaning some of the most complicated surgeries might leave nothing but a round dot of a scar instead of hideous lines across patients. Educators no longer have to pay for and worry about expensive field trips, instead being able to transport their class to far off lands they’ve only read about, but now they stand upon the battlefield of Gettysburg or in the Roman Coliseum.
We’re a long way off from that type of adoption – which means we’re further off from some of those AAA game titles actually making their way to VR. What worries me most about these adoptions into VR is the way they’ll be tried first. What happens when a new console comes out and we leap at that year’s Madden, FIFA, or whatever else? We are disappointed. Every. Time. We saw it with Xbox 360/PS3, we saw it again with the most recent iterations of the consoles. Game makers take a few tries to really implement new hardware in a meaningful way. Remember when Call of Duty did 3D? No one does, because it was poorly implemented, and only served as a checkmark on the box.
For VR to make an impact in gaming they’ll need more than a few experiences. Those clamoring for a “robust launch lineup” are thinking in old school terms of antiquated console launches. While it’s true that those picking up the headsets on the first day will need good, solid, and tested software – they don’t need a big name like Ubisoft, Activision, or anyone else to put out their already stale catalog with EXCLUSIVE VR TRAINING MISSIONS ON SELECT CANS OF ROCKBULL ENERGY SLUSH! We need those “whoa” experiences like what we hear about from the likes of Sony with the London Heist, Oculus with Discovering Space, and seemingly new ones sprout up at each conference. What needs to happen is the conversation must continue about VR before we can anticipate true gaming support in a meaningful way. Games like Elite: Dangerous, Edge of Nowhere, and more will continue to bring us some quality integration, but we can’t expect Activision and Ubisoft to bring out their big guns on VR and have them truly work. If they do, great. I’d much rather see the monsters of game dev put together some skunkworks projects to see how they pan out in VR. More akin to Ubisofts Valiant Heart, Child of Light, or Grow Home. Now those games wouldn’t be all that great in VR, but the fact they exist show me that a giant like Ubisoft has, somewhere deep down, the ability to let creators create. And THAT is what will make VR stick for many years to come. Jumping in with both feet to the deep end of VR is where we will see true innovation, and if we get tack-on modes or half-hearted efforts, VR gaming will be just as 3D gaming, neat but dead.