If, eight months ago, you had told virtual reality (VR) fans that Samsung and Oculus VR would be teaming up to release one of the first major head-mounted displays (HMDs) using smartphones, you may have been laughed away. And yet, here we are in 2015 with one version of Gear VR available, another releasing in a weeks’ time and another iteration expected towards the end of the year. If there’s one HMD that proves the speed at which the VR industry is moving right now, it’s Gear VR.
And yet, there’s still a long way to go for the kit to become a truly consumer-ready product. While the device is lacking in features such as positional tracking, perhaps the bigger worry is the lack of content. Developers flocked to support Gear VR when it was announced back in September 2014, but distribution of these titles has been sparse at best. It doesn’t help that Oculus VR is essentially crawling towards the launch of its commercial store outside of the USA. Certain countries in Europe have had access to the HMD for three months now but have only just received access to the commerce store.
The kit is in need of some new material, then, and the Mobile VR Jam is answering that call.
Currently in its third week, the official Mobile VR Jam is offering a total of $1,000,000 USD in cash prizes, split across both videogames and app categories. Grand prizes in each category are worth $200,000 and $100,000 respectively, which is no small sum for the small teams that are tackling the challenge. The competition hit is second milestone this week, meaning successful submissions can now be seen via a Challenge Post page.
At the time of writing, there are 500 entries on that page.
Granted not each and every one of these entries will eventually lead to fully playable Gear VR experiences, but this is still a hugely exciting time to be a Gear VR owner. Anyone following VRFocus over the course of the past week will be well aware of the flood of intriguing ideas that have come spinning out of the Jam, from the storytelling experiments of Crossover to the refinements made to traditional concepts such as first-person aiming as seen in Crashland Reborn.
Developers that are both familiar with VR or completely new to it now have their first chance to make some real money off of a VR experience. Iris VR is already expanding its Technolust franchise with Technolust: Thought Crimes while Nick Pittom and his team has revealed the hugely promising COLOSSE. The idea of the Jam is to encourage and nurture VR development and it’s clearly having the intended effects. As a result, Gear VR is currently shaping up to be the technology’s playground of exciting new ideas and experiences.
Oculus VR has hugely bolstered its line-up for the device practically overnight, no doubt making the $1,000,000 prize pool seem like spare change compared to the extra Gear VR units and software sales it could make. Better yet, as the true consumer version of Gear VR arrives new owners will have plenty of choice from day one.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Mobile VR Jam is the promise it shows for the future of VR entertainment. This is a group of enthusiasts working with what is essentially a niche product that’s yet to become truly consumer available. Imagine the breadth and variety of content that fans will see once the likes of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Project Morpheus are all well established. Developers both big and small will be ready to make VR prove its worth.
There’s still nearly two months to go until the winners of the Mobile VR Jam are revealed but it already appears that judging winners will be an immensely challenging process. VRFocus will continue to follow the challenge every step of the way, reporting back with the latest on it.