VR vs. E3 2014

We’re now less than a week away from what’s perceived to be the biggest event in the videogame calendar. Yes, E3 2014 doesn’t kick off itself until 10th June, but the much anticipated ‘conference day’, the exciting 12 hours in which Microsoft and Sony battle for supremacy while EA and Ubisoft show off their latest, biggest projects gets underway on 9th June. Leaks and pre-show announcements have already assured that it will be as thrilling a show for big budget titles as always, but what about virtual reality (VR)? Is the technology set to have a big E3?

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It’s no secret that the 2014 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in March was huge for VR. Not only did Oculus VR reveal the next version of its development kit, dubbed DK2, but Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) revealed that it was also working on its own VR headset for its PlayStation 4, named Project Morpheus. The coverage surrounding the two headsets was monumental, being picked up by virtually every major videogame and technology media outlet as people went heads-on with both. It was a real turning point for the technology, for many turning it into a question of when it would arrive rather than if. Can E3 2014 be as significant as that? Does it need to be?

Last week in this segment we talked about the difficulty of stage demos in VR, coming up with some rather extreme solutions as to how it could be solved. Right now this is an issue only for SCE, as Oculus VR doesn’t have an arena-filling event booked (as far as we know). But one has to question if E3 2014 is really the right time for Project Morpheus’ full coming out party. It would follow the pattern SCE took with its PlayStation Move motion controller some years back, providing a detailed reveal at a previous GDC before launching an aggressive push for the tech at its E3 conference months later. But then again, Move had already been shown in its early stages the year before, and was planning to launch later that year. Project Morpheus isn’t expected at least until early 2015 at this point.

Given that SCE has repeatedly hammered home the point that VR is still in its infancy, it would seem odd to contradict that point with a full-scale Project Morpheus blowout in next Monday’s show. We’re sure the device will get a mention, perhaps some first-party developers will even tease that it could be included in their upcoming titles, but we really don’t expect much in the way of release and pricing details. Even Gamescom 2014 in August seems to be a little early for that sort of announcement, though the company is left with few options to garner a huge amount of press for those details after then.

EVEValkyrie_3

Oculus VR is another matter. The company’s DK2 is still a month away from release, so we again doubt that consumer version (CV1) release details are being prepared, but with the technology established for so long now and the company focusing on solely VR, they have the chance to reveal some truly exciting videogames.  We’ve already seen some great indie titles and EVE: Valkyrie provides much hope for bigger teams, but Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey has teased that bigger and better things are on the way. E3 certainly feels like the right time to capitalise on some of those announcements.

There are a few development studios with links to VR that could really make this E3 with some kind of big announcement. Unreal Games and Crytek both feature Oculus Rift support with their respective development engines. The latter just announced Homefront: The Revolution, promising new details at E3. Having that announced for both Project Morpheus and the Oculus Rift would certainly be a significant addition to VR’s growing line up. Of course, we also know that nDreams is finally going to reveal its first VR project during the week. Don’t hurt us for saying it, but Valve has been hugely supportive of both Oculus VR and its own headset this year; if they brought a new title to E3 could it boast support for the technology?

E3 2014 doesn’t seem positioned to be a significant show for VR hardware, then, but that’s okay. We’re still waiting on what was shown at GDC 2014 and we’re likely too far off the consumer releases to get solid release details just yet. But it could be a hugely significant show for software, which, at this point, excites us all the more. We’ve spent so much time focused on the technology itself we haven’t paid much thought to what we’ll be playing on it. Let’s hope this year’s show changes all of that.

No matter what impact VR has at the show, VRFocus will be there to cover every aspect of it. Join us for all the VR news on SCE’s conference at 18:00 PST or 02:00 BST on 9th June, then keep coming back throughout the week for all the latest.

‘VR vs’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes an issue currently challenging the VR industry and discusses how to fix it. Looking at everything from the videogames in development to the strength of the technology, we highlight the problems and try to come up with the best solutions. 

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