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VR vs. Angry Birds VR

“I believe VR’s #AngryBirds is going to take a few years to find. But there’s plenty of fun (and success) to be had along the way.”

That’s a quote from Jason Rubin, Head of Worldwide Studios at Oculus VR, released shortly after his appointment in 2014. Speaking metaphorically, Rubin hits the nail on the head; there’s yet to be a virtual reality (VR) videogame that validates the entire platform as Rovio’s manic series did for mobile. Nor should there have been, given that there’s yet to be a true consumer head-mounted display (HMD) to release. It’s ironic, then, that in a literally sense, Rubin couldn’t have been more wrong. This week has seen the reveal of Angry Birds VR, a new take on Rovio’s 2D classic for the Gear VR smartphone-based HMD.

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Seemingly developed by IMGNATION Studios in partnership with original creator, Rovio, Angry Birds VR marks the second high-profile mobile series to come to VR, the first being Imangi Studios’ Temple Run. But, even further than that, this is quite possibly the most successful IP to turn its attention to VR so far. Back in 2014, Angry Birds VR amounted to an April Fool’s joke for Rovio; something so outlandish and impossible that it had to a hilarious prank. Just over a year later and it’s no longer a joke. How many April Fool’s pranks have managed to turn from joke to reality in that space of time?

It’s testament to the whirlwind year that VR has had. Many think of the 2015 Game Developers Conference (GDC) as the week in which VR finally became a serious prospect, but anyone following the events, announcements, acquisitions and hirings in the past year will know that things have been heading this way for a long time. VR is finally on the verge of grabbing some of the big headlines and reveals in the videogame landscape. The technology has played a part at events such as E3 in the past, but is set to take centre stage this year with the help of a blowout on Project Morpheus from Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) and more news on the consumer Oculus Rift.

It also dares us to think about other possible VR adaptions. If a company as successful as Rovio is bringing its biggest IP to VR, what else could be on the way? VRFocus has been running its ‘Make it a (Virtual) Reality’ series for over a year now and with consumer VR now just over half a year away, perhaps some of the many franchises talked about in those features will soon be turned into real VR videogames. It’s an incredibly exciting thought, and one that’s difficult not to get carried away with considering that VR videogames need careful optimisation rather than fast integration in order to be worthwhile.

Of course it’s not just IP that we want to see come to VR, it’s also developers and publishers. VR catching the attention of Rovio, a company that’s seen incredible success with Angry Birds and other mobile titles, is an encouraging sign that larger publishers and celebrated developers are also thinking about, and possible already working in, VR. Again, E3 is mere weeks away now, and it’s exhilarating to think about which teams, from indies all the way up to AAA juggernauts, could possibly reveal work with the technology.

The reveal of Angry Birds VR was surprising to say the least. Hopefully this is a sign of much more than one popular IP heading to the technology; hopefully this is the start of a much wider adoption of VR across companies and franchises, the likes of which has been dreamed of ever since Oculus Rift hit Kickstarter.