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VR vs. Activision

With a recent history of annualised releases, toy-based videogames and adaptations of movies, you might think publishing giant Activision wouldn’t take a chance on a technology as risky as virtual reality (VR). But dig a little deeper into that history and there’s reassuring evidence that the company may well lend support to the likes of the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus head-mounted displays (HMD) whenever they’re finally made available. And with some of the industry’s biggest franchises falling under its publishing line, it would certainly be exciting to see it get involved in VR.

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Looking back at the last generation of videogame consoles Activision certainly tried to capitalise on the use of peripherals with its videogames. Admittedly these were mostly in-house creations: Guitar Hero’s plastic instruments, Skylander’s toy portal and even the ill-fated plastic skateboard for Tony Hawks’ videogames were made by the company itself. That said, the publisher proved to be one of the main supporters of Sony Computer Entertainment’s (SCE) PlayStation Move motion controller on PlayStation 3, releasing the likes of The Amazing Spider-Man, Goldeneye 007: Reloaded and even an entry in its Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts series with integration. Could it do the same for Project Morpheus?

Of course, the aforementioned titles didn’t exactly prove to be huge hits for PlayStation Move. In fact, apart from Goldeneye 007: Reloaded, support was somewhat shoehorned into these titles. As VR fans will be well aware of by now ‘shoehorning’ is not a practise that fits well in VR. Experiences need to be developed with VR in mind from the ground up and not be forced in somewhere down the line. That’s not to say titles need to be VR exclusive, but a conscious decision to support the HMDs ideally needs to be made before development gets underway. In other words, less The Amazing Spider-Man, more Goldeneye 007: Reloaded.

If Activision gets a grasp of this golden rule then the publisher could be a driving force behind VR. Bungie’s Destiny, which launched in September, has proven to be one of the biggest releases of 2014 and even been crowned the best-selling new IP of all time. Imagine if, for the inevitable sequel, the company chose to incorporate VR, bringing a massively multiplayer universe to the technology. Skylanders could also be reinvigorated with something in vein of upcoming VR platform title, Lucky’s Tale.

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Obviously you can’t mention Activision without talking about Call of Duty. The title’s brand of fast-paced, explosive action might make for a harder conversion than Destiny, but if it was actually pulled off it could prove to be a watershed moment for VR.

Activision is a company that regularly comes under fire for one reason or another from the videogame community, but the truth is the company is one of the driving forces behind high-end experiences. Ultimately that’s something that every VR is waiting to get to and this is one publisher that could really help the technology along its path.

‘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.