Dear VR developers, need a break in the meditation temple?

Dear VR developers, need a break in the meditation temple?

Your VR games are boring. Your trailers are a waste of time. You simply haven't grasped the potential of VR.

I've been watching the VR industry for eight years - and no one can say that I'm not easily excited or exclusively grumpy. I've always maintained a somewhat childlike enthusiasm, and if a game has a cool mechanic, looks particularly good, or promises a strong story, I'm quick to get hyped.

But right now, there's a feeling of frustration spreading because the stuff I'm being offered right now is mostly complete crap to me. And even though I usually try to find something positive in the general development and stay as fair as possible, I'd like to vent now:

Your VR games suck. Inspiration? Comes straight from the previous shooter trailer. The only thing innovative is the computer I have to strap to my head for your Pixel tango. You bore me to death.

Only a few diamonds in the dust

Sony released some great VR games with the launch of the PSVR 2. Some indies keep coming up with cool ideas or just good little VR games that are fun to play. We Are One, Little Cities, Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game. Of course, there are the hits, like Walkabout Mini Golf.

But they feel like single diamonds in a pile of mediocre to sometimes bad VR games. We had to cancel several planned VR game reviews at MIXED because the games were completely buggy or unbelievably bad.

There seems very little good stuff on the VR market currently, so the Playstation VR Showcase had only one new VR game, Arizona Sunshine 2 (thanks for that, Vertigo Games!).

The Meta Gaming Showcase had Asgard's Wrath 2 and some interesting games, but it wasn't a paragon of quality either. At the risk of making myself unpopular: I was shocked by the trailer for Stranger Things VR. How inferior and second-rate does this game look?

Sure, those who loved the Sega cult game Samba de Amigo back then might have been positively triggered (like my colleague Christian). It triggered me as well: I found the trailer somewhat embarrassing. I would never have included Death Game Hotel in a Meta Showcase. Instead, I see pure desperation at Meta & Co: There are hardly any good VR games because you need good VR studios. And those are extremely rare.

VR showcase of horror

Yesterday was a low point for me. My colleagues at UploadVR have put significant effort into their UploadVR Showcase, a trailer show about VR games, for a couple of years now. I want to clarify that I appreciate this work and usually think it is fundamentally important.

However, I think the current showcase is hurting the industry. Presenting every little VR experiment come hell or high water, recording lousy trailers, and then ennobling it as a VR showcase hurts in two ways: It devalues the good studios and their projects by lumping them together with pixel garbage, and it scares off people interested in VR.


Monotony and lack of imagination is the new god of many of the VR studios on display: first-person shooters, each more generic than the last. 2016 is here again, but this time on steroids. Back then, wave shooter after wave shooter was made, and it was so boring. Today I can move, jump, fly and - still play the same old shooting. And another. And another. And another.

Is that all you can think of? Shooting? First-person perspective? Garnished with cheap graphics and interactions from VR hell?

I'm frustrated by this glimpse into the state of the VR industry because it clearly shows what VR gaming is like today. VR requires a profound understanding of the medium and a special kind of creativity. It doesn't even require grandiose graphics - Walkabout alone proves every three months what can be done with simple graphics.

It's not just a computer screen I put on my head. And yet, tons of soulless games are being brought to VR that would never see the light of day in Steam's gigantic pile of software garbage - or never did and are therefore being given a second life as VR zombies. How fitting.

Lack of imagination galore

Where are the smart concepts? Where is the attention to detail? Where are the emotional stories? VR used to be called an empathy machine. I don't hear that anymore because hardly anyone is trying to tell touching stories in VR.

Yeah, sure, high-quality VR is expensive. Maybe so, but several small studios and individual developers are proving that it is possible to work with much higher standards than a lot of what was thrown at us yesterday.

I would like to see more variety, especially in terms of genres. The umpteenth standard shooter just annoys me. I would like to see more quality to attract new VR players. This is especially true for the trailers: It's hard to present VR well in 2D, but please at least try to make appealing trailers.

And I would like to see better curation for showcases. Half an hour condensed to the best trailers - there were some good ones! - would have been enough yesterday.

VR gaming is just slogging along anyway. It's time to put some good oil back in the gearbox, not this eternal, crunching, all-dissolving sand that desperate VR editors and seemingly helpless companies are blowing through gaming shows and that is rubbing the polish off my VR headset.