E3 2016: Major Game Developers Back VR

Colin McMahon
Jun 16, 2016

At this year’s Electronic Arts Expo (E3), which took place in Los Angeles, California from June 12 to 16, virtual reality (VR) dominated the headlines. It can often be said that a technology is only as good as its applications. This year’s E3 was marked by the entry of major video game companies into the VR arena. Those waiting to see where the killer apps for VR would come from might have finally gotten their answers.


Software giant Bethesda led off with the announcement of Bethesda VR – a new branch of the company dedicated to creating video games solely for VR play. This would be impressive enough, but Bethesda went further, announcing that last year’s big title, Fallout 4 – which made over $750 million for the company in its first day alone – will be ported to VR. Bethesda has stated that it will not minimize the game in any way, meaning VR players will enjoy the full 100+-hour experience. The company also announced that a version of its new hit, Doom, will be made available in VR – although at this point it sounds more like a tech demo than an actual port of the game.

Sony, which recently unveiled PlayStation VR, upped its ante. The company showcased 29 playable games that would be released within a few months of October’s PlayStation VR headset. Highlights include Batman: Arkham VR, which will allow the player to assume the role of the dark knight in solving a murder, and an exclusive VR mission for Star Wars Battlefront, which will allow the player to pilot an X-wing. Batman and Star Wars are both extremely popular and profitable properties right now, so their inclusion in VR will undoubtedly generate excitement and spur PlayStation VR sales (pre-orders for the headset are already sold out on Amazon and the Sony PlayStation store).

Not to be left behind, Microsoft unveiled a new version of its Xbox One system, currently called Project Scorpio. The system is due to be released next year, with VR-compatibility being highlighted as a key new feature. While Microsoft has said that it is working with Oculus on Project Scorpio, it is currently unknown which headset this new system will use.

This places Sony and Microsoft in the VR console market by end of 2017, with Nintendo rumored to be also developing VR hardware on its new system. Yet while 2017 may see all three gaming giants creating VR systems, Sony is scheduled to have its version out this year (October 13th).

The other news item of particular note came from OSVR. OSVR’s corporate message calls for “open source virtual reality,” bringing the technology to as many people as possible. To that effect, OSVR unveiled its hacker development kit (HDK) 2, headset hardware with resolution and frame rate on par with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. This headset’s release is set for July, at $399 ($200 lower than Oculus Rift and $400 lower than the HTC Vive).


InfoTrends’ Opinion

The arrival of this much software into the console VR market is prodigious. Mobile VR is currently expected to take off much more rapidly than PC VR – with price difference being the key factor. With this year’s E3, however, console VR arrived in a big way. Console VR is more powerful than mobile, with only a marginally higher entry price point. With over 40 million PlayStation 4 units already sold, and the PlayStation VR being priced at an affordable $399 for the headset, key apps being available will make all the difference in how quickly the console VR hardware takes off. The ability to become Batman and fly an X-Wing will go a long way to excite consumers. We also stress that, while the fields of gaming, computing, and media were separate ten years ago, those divisions have since blurred. Mainstream penetration of console VR will impact far more than the video game industry. Industries like film, social media, and news are tied to the console industry, and could see massive VR growth. Companies like Netflix, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and many others operate through console interfaces. Should Sony PlayStation VR take off, VR will have overcome a major hurdle in becoming mainstream.

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