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VR Vs. Switched To Standby

It was all a bit of a shame really. It’s been a couple of weeks since the Nintendo NX was revealed to be the Nintendo Switch (insert clicking noise here). Like you we were all waiting on tenterhooks, which is an awesome word by-the-way, for the announcement. Would Nintendo actually pull the trigger and announce a spectacular return to virtual reality (VR)? As it turns out… no.

Rats. I was ready with the ‘New Challenger Approaching’ GIF and everything.

It was still exciting to see the Switch (*click*) and I am immediately more engaged for that than I was for the Wii U. Which, although I don’t own one, I was far more receptive to than most it seems. Then again, based on the trailer I need to be thoroughly engaged 100% of the time anyway in highly active non-video game related activities. Unlike the Wii/Wii U the Switch was very specifically for the 18-25 market. Did you notice that? Nevermind ‘gaming for everyone’, based on the trailer no-one over 30 is allowed to play Nintendo Switch at all. I assume for the rest of us we all get killed off, Logan’s Run-style. Disappearing off into Nintendo’s new multiplayer-experience Carrousel, or getting chased down by a team of black jump-suited Mario Sandmen. Chanting “please understand” as they descend on us, NES zappers drawn, as soon as our Pokémon GO Plus gadgets start glowing red.

Nintendo Switch

So, no VR. For now anyway. Nintendo have at least left the door open and with this sort of transforming console experience you can certainly see possibilities for how it could (power permitting) potentially accommodate VR in the future. Even better we had the recent story of Nintendo’s own President, Tatsumi Kimishima, confirming that it was certainly a factor that the company was bearing in mind. “If you asked as if this might be possible in the future, certainly we can’t say no. In terms of how it can be used for gaming, it’s something we must consider.” Kimishima’s comments are well reasoned and you can understand his point of view. For now, especially with the market so in flux it ill behooves Nintendo to wade in to the mess themselves. It’s the safer option. Nintendo aren’t afraid to take a punt on something new but, much like with Apple and their totally-not-happening-honest-guv VR head-mounted display (HMD) it makes sense for them to wait. Microsoft are also going to wait on the market, at least for VR on consoles according to Phil Spencer.

Speaking in a recent interview, Spencer said of VR: “What experiences do you put in people’s hands to have a long term engagement? Most of these things I’m playing now feel like demos and experiments, which I actually think it’s absolutely the right thing to have happened. That’s not a criticism at all, but should be happening. But I think it will take time.”

Of course, that’s hardly inaccurate. It is indeed still finding its feet, although for VR its coupled with discovering how it’s feet actually function. Those of us who have been talking about VR for a while now have never said VR was gonna hit the ground and immediately be what it needs to be. It wasn’t going to have all the answers. It’ll be divisive for a while yet. Right now for every games journalist who writes that VR is good there is one who writes that it made them sick and is terrible. As we have said before, there is some VR that simply isn’t good. Strangely we were recently taken to task on Twitter because Peter noted in his Alice VR review that is made him feel uncomfortable, and that VR veterans might well find themselves feeling a bit green in the gills. Good feedback and good information you’d have thought but instead we were asked what was someone who is ‘prone’ to being motion sick was doing reviewing a VR game at all. Surely, this was a bias. You wouldn’t get someone lactose intolerant to review dairy products, we were told.

Frankly the comparison, from a VR developer no less, was utterly ludicrous for obvious reasons. I mean if you got all of the VR press together and took away anyone who has at any time felt uneasy in VR and you’d have an empty room. Of course the dev had never felt sick in VR before themselves, so naturally it was all Peter’s fault and he shouldn’t review again unless he does a physical or something.

We’ll be taking the suggestion under advisement.

But that’s the thing, everyone is still learning. Clearly even those who make VR, as VR is, for all intents and purposes, a brand new platform. Developers are trying to decide how best to evolve current games and what flies as a new one.   What is a problem in a standard experience isn’t the same in a VR game necessarily and vice-versa. It’s a whole new game for QA to wrap their heads around. In that same way consumers need to re-learn what they consider to be an acceptable length experience. People seem to love the new Batman: Arkham VR experience. Now I love Batman – as my media unit’s shelf full of Blu-Rays will attest – but I know if the same experience came out and it wasn’t Batman people wouldn’t likely be far more critical of what is, for a chunk of it, essentially “Please Appreciate The Arkham Knight Assets”.

We need full game experiences. True. Let’s not act like they’re not out there tho. I mean, if Microsoft are indeed waiting because it’s not the right time yet on XBOX it’s kind of an odd situation that we’re now getting HMDs from five Microsoft partners specifically for VR and Windows 10.  If its not right for games why is Minecraft wheeled out whenever a point is needed to be made, such as Microsoft themselves did and continue to do with Hololens? Admittedly that was a demo but is it not access to it on Gear VR?

Bottom line, waiting is fine. But if your cash cow is used as one of the standard bearers and the rest of the company is pushing full speed ahead then your reasons for waiting look a lot, lot thinner.