Virtual Reality 2023: My list of the year's hits and misses

Virtual Reality 2023: My list of the year's hits and misses

The year 2023 is coming to an end. It was a year full of ups and downs for the VR industry. Here is Tomislav's selection.

Best Hardware: Meta Quest 3

It's not a difficult choice for me: Quest 3 brought me fully back to virtual reality this year and rekindled my fascination with the technology.

The Playstation VR 2, also released this year, is getting less of my attention, but a handful of exclusive VR games and better VR graphics across the board keep me coming back.

The devices have different strengths and complement each other well, in my experience.

Best Feature: Mixed Reality

Opinions on mixed reality vary widely: some see it as a gimmick, others as an exciting feature with great potential for the future. I certainly belong to the latter group, although I am aware that the technology is still in its infancy.

That being said, just the simple color passthrough of the Quest 3 already has huge advantages today: I can more easily switch between layers of reality, use my smartphone with the VR headset, and play active games with less risk of hurting myself or destroying my furniture.

The foveated rendering of Playstation VR 2, which took No Man's Sky to a whole new level, deserves an honorable mention in this category. It's simply a game changer!

Best VR Game: Demeo Battles

My favorite game of 2023 is neither Asgard's Wrath 2 nor Assassin's Creed Nexus VR.

It's Demeo Battles because I've played it more than any other VR title this year. I'm a big fan of the tabletop RPG Demeo, and the PVP spin-off is even better for me because I'm playing against humans. It adds a strategic and tactical depth to the game that it didn't have before. Demeo Battles is as good as if it had been designed for PVP all along. Good job, Resolution Games!

Best VR App: Whatsapp

I communicate with 99% of my friends and family via Whatsapp. So the native Whatsapp app for Meta Quest is a godsend and has other benefits besides communicating in VR.

I would like to take this opportunity to mention two other VR applications that have impressed me and enriched my life: Realms of Flow helps me relax and reflect, while Human Anatomy VR helps me rehabilitate after a herniated disc.


Best VR Film: JFK Memento

The VR documentary JFK Memento, made with Meta's support, retells the story of John F. Kennedy's assassination and the events that followed in a new and spatial way that only virtual reality can provide.

JFK Memento was produced by the Paris-based VR studio Targo, which also used virtual reality to explore another traumatic event in U.S. history with Surviving 9/11.

My surprise of the year

I was surprised when Apple finally unveiled its mixed reality headset last summer, and frankly, I still am. Because the Vision Pro is an extremely untypical product for Apple, and I doubt it will be a massive success unless the weight and price is reduced by two-thirds. But I'm happy to be proven wrong.

I was also surprised to see Valve putting energy into SteamVR after a long hiatus. Are Steam VR 2.0 and Steam Link for Meta Quest just platform maintenance, or a sign that Valve is preparing the ground for something bigger? I'm betting on the former and hoping for the latter.

My highlight of the year

2023 was the year of VR gaming. The second half of the year saw a veritable flood of high-quality VR titles, making it arguably the best year for VR gaming to date.

Playstation VR 2 saw Horizon Call of the Mountain, Gran Turismo 7, VR modes for Resident Evil Village and Resident Evil 4, and a much improved No Man's Sky VR. Assassin's Creed Nexus VR and Asgard's Wrath 2 were released for Meta Quest, while Vertigo 2 surprised and excelled on PC VR.

Cross-platform titles such as The 7th Guest VR, Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice, Arizona Sunshine 2 and Racket Club also made a positive impact.

My disappointment of the year

My disappointment of the year is that it took Bytedance a full year to realize they would rather not compete with Meta. Pico's exit from consumer VR is a slap in the face to developers and consumers who have invested time and money in the ecosystem. Companies that dabble in VR and then pull out do more harm than good to the industry.

Also disappointing is Sony's lack of commitment to Playstation VR 2 and the fact that Half-Life: Alyx still hasn't made it to the VR headset. Under these circumstances, I don't hold out much hope that the VR platform will take off in 2024. It looks like it's up to third-party VR studios to save Playstation VR 2.

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