Two news stories have recently shaken the peaceful (some would say too) virtual reality scene, and are going in opposite directions. On the one hand, Facebook buys the studio that signed the one that for many is the most relevant game of the latest generation of virtual reality products, ‘Beat Saber’. On the other hand, Xbox director Phil Spencer disdains the whole VR phenomenon, openly saying that “no one is asking for virtual reality” – with the resulting Fan Buzz.
But let’s go in pieces. The studio Facebook has bought is Beat Games, responsible for’ Beat Saber’, a virtual reality game defined as a mixture of’ Fruit Ninja ‘and’Guitar Hero’. It is a very precise observation: the player moves through a virtual environment like ‘REZ’ and has to eliminate vector blocks at the rhythm of the music, in the sense that they indicate arrows and using the two hand controllers as if they were laser sabers. The title has sold over a million copies, but the size of Beat Games remains very modest: only eight employees.
Beat Games will join Oculus VR, the study foundation of the virtual reality (who recently lost her steering-celebrity, John Carmack), acquired by Mark Zuckerberg in 2014 for more than two thousand million dollars. They will, however, continue to maintain their independence and maintain their headquarters in Prague. This movement is due to the change of orientation recent Oculus, that after financing a multitude of projects, independent studies that experimented with the devices of the company, carry a couple of years focusing on a few specific studies to develop titles powerful for the platform.
It remains to be known what will happen to the many fans who have twisted the nose at the acquisition of the studio, since one of the great inducements of the game was that the studio had released tools to generate levels with any song, something that can certainly lead to legal conflicts if it has more visibility. The Facebook Effect can lead to both a radical cut of these mods and a greater ease for many of them to work legally. The attitude of the company, for the moment, is that “they appreciate the value that the mods bring to Beat knowing when they are done legally and respecting our policies,” and that they will do everything possible to preserve that value.
Meanwhile, Phil Spencer has solved the VR advocates stating that Xbox Scarlett, Microsoft’s next console project, will not have virtual reality support because “no one is asking for it”. It was in an interview with Stevivor that he also stated that the VR market is growing very slowly and that none of the games or devices of that nature have a real impact on global sales lists.
Of course, the negative reaction did not wait, and Spencer nuanced his harsh words: he claimed that the criticisms of his words were fair, and that “I played some great games on VR, I could play ‘Half-Life – Alyx’ during the summer, it’s amazing. It’s simply not our approach to Scarlett.” In general, the discussion that ensued on Twitter around those statements of Spencer turned around if Xbox was so on account of the investment in VR when at best its function is to simply put the platform to be studies those who experience it. And the inevitable comparisons: if Valve, Sony or Oculus are investing in VR, is Microsoft worth staying behind in that field?
In June of 2019, Forbes put on the table a study from Futuresource Consulting that stated that with its current pace of growth, in 2023, it would have come to be installed 168 million devices around the world, generating 98,4 million dollars in sales. It helps that Oculus Quest went on sale to the public this same year. There are no official figures, but it is estimated about a million devices sold.
However, is there a sense that virtual reality does not just take off? Forbes ‘ own report, although optimistic, acknowledges a marked slowdown in the growth of the VR in 2018 and 2019 compared to the outbreak of 2017. Spencer’s words are not surprising: after Kinect’s failure, it is entirely logical for the company to take a more conservative position, especially on something that is not as clear as the future, as it was not with the gestural controls. It is not, as the company manager says, that the VR favours isolation, but rather that the general feeling is a certain precaution.
Meanwhile, the rest of the companies that invest in RV continue to take steps in development and grow at a more or less reasonable pace: in Steam, the number of connected devices exceeded one million in May, with growth of no less than 80% per year. And his first game entirely on RV, ‘Half-Life: Alyx’, is already sold almost as a’ Half-Life 3 ‘ and as a whole demonstration of the technical virguerías that can make the glasses designed by Steam.
Also at the beginning of the year, Sony talked about 4.2 million Playstation VR helmets sold, and talked about a phenomenon that had “exceeded its expectations”. Sony is certainly one of the brands that has most strongly supported the VR. You have already confirmed that Playstation 5 will have support for VR and may even have a new interest in your virtual reality helmet. Its catalogue of games for VR does not descend and will continue to grow fat during 2020.
Is the 5G, as Forbes states, the ultimate gateway to the VR world with the consequent reduction of latency and higher-speed internet? It remains to be seen, but the existence of specialized media such as Road to VR shows that, of course, there is a scene and an audience looking for specific information about virtual reality games and devices. As always, it is a matter of Visions: a radical change in game formats and mechanics is something that not everyone can be so clear about. For example, Activision analyst and ex-executive Mitch Lasky believes that the benefits in terms of immersion and spectacularity are not equivalent to the discomfort of VR devices.
Even Mark Zuckerberg seems to partially moderate his enthusiasm when he talks about it. In an interview with CNET he said, ” I don’t think it’s anything by 2020. Hopefully you didn’t have to wait to 2030″. In that same interview, the Facebook manager seems to have more data at his disposal than he reveals, and he only points to a future in which the VR goes beyond video games and is an integral part of our leisure and work. For the time being, opinions can only be sought for and against and can be expected.