If VR is dependent on gaming, it is (currently) doomed
What the gaming industry is doing right now is beyond belief. Junk and banana products* everywhere! Is that what is supposed to make VR great?
*In germany we call products that are sold unfinished and in a state of perpetual beta “banana products”, because they mature with or at the customer.
The main application of virtual reality in the consumer market is gaming. This has always been the case, despite attempts in other areas such as travel, art, and movies. Within the gaming target group, you reach very tech-savvy people and a lot of so-called early adopters. In other words, nerds like me – and I mean that in a positive way.
Gaming is also a natural fit for VR because it’s all about experiencing virtual worlds. The step from flat to true 3D to a fully immersive experience is as close as the tip of your nose.
But can you really want that right now?
“PC VR is Messiah”
We’ve talked about the lack of good VR games a zillion times here on MIXED. In the opinion of the hardcore PC VR bubble, the death of VR is already sealed – at least since Meta put up the (quite successful) “VR tombstone” called Quest (2). Meanwhile, Sony’s PSVR 2 shows how to starve a promising VR platform to death.
Well, Bubbles generally have trouble to look beyond the horizon. When trying, they often only see what they already know or think to know. This is usually fed by their own experiences and therefore leads to solutions like this:
- “Studios just need to port their good old gems and VR will fly.”
- “There is a need for high quality PC VR games, and then there will be a breakthrough.”
- “Success will come by itself if you just make a VR mode for flat games.”(I’m guilty of this myself.)
Please, don’t do VR!
When I look at what could be ported right now, I feel mostly fear rather than excitement. All these studios, big and small, that have been putting more and more banana products on people’s computers for the last few years, are they supposed to port that stuff to VR? To a completely new medium that requires a lot of care and expertise?
Just a few recent examples – there are many more:
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Actually a good game, almost everyone agrees. But it was technically unfinished at release and suffered from massive performance issues. On PC it was partially unplayable for many, and that didn’t even stop at the PS5: Cyberpunk 2077 didn’t cause a shift in the industry, on the contrary. However, patches have already been released to partially remedy the situation.
The Last Of Us 1 (PC)
For me, both Last of Us games are the pinnacle of video game art. That makes it even more heartbreaking to see what this PC port did to the original. The sheer number and nature of bugs, which have been shoved painfully into one’s face via dedicated Subreddits, is a monumental failure in and of itself. Especially the failure of Naughty Dog themselves, who should never have let such an unacceptable port pass.
The hackneyed open world shooter formula has been taken to the extreme here. Uninspired, poorly written, mediocre to poorly implemented, buggy and with lousy performance. PC and Xbox. Ugh.
As a precaution, one would like to call the studios: Please keep your hands off VR. In the case of Meta’s GTA plans and the fiasco surrounding the remake of the GTA trilogy, even non-believers might start praying.
It is still going to be bought.
But: The games industry is also more successful than ever. Sales are growing and growing because people are buying everything. After the hype-previews and -campaigns of the gaming media, the obligatory criticism follows with nice routine in connection with the good old mantra: “This will surely be fixed in the next updates”. Unfortunately, I’ve done this myself in my time writing for gaming magazines.
Viral Reddit rants, Youtube reviews, bad ratings – it doesn’t matter, people still buy. The software matures with the customer even without the infamous Early Access sticker, at least if you’re lucky enough to have a studio that follows this principle and doesn’t consider the junk sold and therefore finished.
Who expects top VR titles from this industry? From those who don’t even deliver the product satisfactorily to a disproportionately larger buyer base?
I like to dream, too. I hope that VR will get better headsets and better VR apps, not lots of half-baked experiments with “next gen” stickers thrown at a comparatively small group of enthusiasts.
But when it comes to betting on who or what will make VR big, I wouldn’t put a dime on any of the established game studios right now. I see better odds for Apple with its alleged $3,000 headset – after all, Apple is excellent at gaming, as we all know.
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