Bonelab: Of hype, bubbles, & divided minds

Bonelab: Of hype, bubbles, & divided minds

Bonelab is the most hyped VR game of the year. And, it says a lot about the state of the VR games industry.

For me, 2022 is one of the weaker gaming years in virtual reality. This circumstance that was foreshadowed in the spring’s meager Meta Quest Gaming Showcase.

Like every year, 2022 has an indie gem or two like Red Matter 2 (review), The Last Clockwinder (review), or Moss 2 (review) that helps you get over the dry spell and makes you forget that the VR ecosystem is still small. But they don’t satisfy the hunger for big titles.

The hype wave is rolling

Bonelab is also an indie game, but an exceptional one. It is the successor to the experimental physics game Boneworks, which has a large following and a cult following within a core PC VR gaming community. Given the ongoing software drought and the expectations the gaming community had for Bonelab, it’s no surprise that Bonelab generated so much hype in advance.

On Twitter, testers were cheering before the embargo ended that we were in for something big, and an hour or two after the game finally came out, it registered more than a thousand reviews on the Oculus Store – from fans who hadn’t even had a chance to take a closer look at the game yet or downloaded it first.

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Bonelab: From the hardcore for the hardcore

Meanwhile, critical voices can also be heard in relevant Reddit forums, complaining about unpredictable physics or ponderous gameplay that does not live up to the previous hype.

I expected that. Boneworks already polarized the gaming community. One group swore by the great physics and freedom of interaction. Another turned away bored by the experimental gameplay – or had stomach complaints.

Speaking of motion sickness, Bonelab does without optional locomotion methods such as teleportation or visual vignetting during fluid locomotion. Since the title released differently than Boneworks for Meta Quest 2, it could reach millions of casual players without really taking this into account. A shot that could backfire for the studio and VR in general.

A passing fancy?

And what does the gaming press think of Bonelab? So far, not much. Despite huge hype and hoopla, the VR-only game is barely getting any attention from media outside of the VR bubble. Metacritic currently lists a single review.

This is also symptomatic of the VR games industry status quo. If something bigger comes along, it takes a lot of the air out of the rest of the room. My MIXED colleague Jan will tell you soon whether Bonelab is revolutionary or evolutionary, and how stomach-tolerant it is. By then, the waves of hype will have been smoothed over.