Welcome to the first VR vs of the year, my weekly column where I take a look at what’s going on in the world of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and give my personal take on things as VRFocus‘ ‘third man’.
After last week’s look at Palmer Luckey’s future, which if you believe the Discord comments certainly had Oculus’ attention (ooh-er) it’s time to look to what lies before us in 2017. Because, as you no doubt know, I happen to be a well-versed techno wizard. Able to turn people into fish and squirrels and birds and so forth. A head-mounted soothsayer-displayer with the power to see into the future. CENTURIES INTO THE FUTURE.
Also known as ‘bloke who can take a guess where things are going to head based on how last year went’.
So, in the spirit of everyone else’s ‘what I want to see in 2017’ articles I’m going to get all Nostradamus myself and give my own guesses as to what might well occur in 2017.
Scrying via my crystal ball I see…
Zenimax Becomes VR’s Bad Guy
This one is pretty much nailed on. Now we’re in 2017 the legal throwdown between Oculus and Zenimax Media surely grows closer by the day. If you’re unaware of the story so far Zenimax filed suit agaist Oculus suggesting that not only did Oculus VR unlawfully obtain technology and research from Zenimax (through John Carmack), but also that a story was fabricated to make Palmer Luckey, appear to be the creator. Instead, Zenimax allege that Luckey recognised the rising popularity of VR and obtained Zenimax’s technologies for his own use.
The whole scenario has been bubbling away now since 2014 and Zenimax have been using some very strong language during the process. Their filing amendment’s initial statement outright accusing Carmack of theft. Oculus and Facebook insist the whole shebang is entirely without merit.
The process is overdue to move on and Zenimax have been pretty clear they consider all Oculus’ work by extension their own. So you now have an outsider, as it were, trying to ‘cash in’ (as Facebook put it) on VR and they don’t particularly care how much of a mess they make. Even if a judge finds in favour of Facebook/Oculus, there’s going to be a lot of damage done to VR’s reputation as a whole and no one wants that. Don’t be surprised if Zenimax file for an injunction to stop worldwide sales of the Oculus Rift. I wouldn’t even be surprised if they also took aim at Samsung and other VR providers.
Whatever your stance on Oculus, Zenimax will be the name you not-so-silently curse by the end of the year. Heck, they might end up generating a lot of sympathy for Oculus from corners of the VR fandom that have previously been very much against them.
Via crop circle analysis, aliens tell me that…
Several Trillion Market Research Agencies Will Say VR’s Market Growth Has Slowed/Value Has Reduced
It’s one of my pet peeves (see: VR vs. Simply Irr-statistical) but as you know there can never be a week that goes by without some marketing organisation declaring via the aid of their statistics how much the VR or AR market is changing. (By the way, it’s growing you know…) Some sub-facet will expand by 20 billion over the next four years. 40 billion. 60 billion. Will double in value. Triple. Quadruple. Will achieve sentience and destroy us all. One thing I do predict is, following a 2016 full of bombast, that when we next get around to some of these organisation they will dial some of this back in a similar fashion.
This will be for a number of reasons for that of course; the biggest being that more data from 2016 will come in leading to a more rounded idea of where VR as an industry is heading. Yes, headsets haven’t sold as well as people would have wanted, but none of the platform holders are particularly worried about this. Still, expect some intriguing language from these firms who oh so cleverly predicted more VR sales in 2016 than 2015 – you know, that 2016 where all the PC and console systems actually came out at retail. They’ll adjust it down. People will cluck their tongues, stroke their beards and write stories where they mutter in serious tones about “Is this the end of VR?”
The answer to which will be “no”. Much like how the answer to every other article about “Is this the end of VR?” over the last twelve months has been “no”.
Through the reading of your palm I discover you really need to wash your hands… and also see…
The Debut Of Halo-lens
Minecraft this. Minecraft that. Minecraft bloody everything. It’s like Minecraft is seen as one of the only ways that something new in gaming can be explained. There’s nothing expressly wrong with that but for a franchise Microsoft is already dangerously close to over-milking we can afford a little break from it. It was the poster-child for cross play in 2016 and it still features on pretty much all the marketing material related to Microsoft’s Hololens. Microsoft showed off some very impressive technology during the latter part of last year which focused more on the home and the office (as opposed to Office) but it’s time they put a focus on the gaming again, and what better way than the use of Microsoft’s other golden goose.
It’s more than just a pun. Whilst they’ve dipped their toe in to the Halo universe previously with Warzone, (anyone remember that?) A first person Halo experience would be something fans would salivate over and be something instantly recognisable to gamers everywhere. The idea that you can “Become A Legend” would market well, and have press pounding at Microsoft’s door. Including us. It would also make sense as a stopgap near the end of the year following the release of Halo Wars 2 this February and the then wait until Halo 6: The Advertising Is Accurate This Time, Honest.
Through diligent observations of the heavens I note…
A Big Name Leaves Oculus – And Jumps Ship
Considering last week’s column you may assume I mean Palmer Luckey at this point and it’s entirely possible. Whilst I went into how he is being seen I didn’t really get into how he himself might be feeling, which is an entirely different kettle of fish. Depending on what occurs with this new role at Oculus, Luckey might well consider it a good time to cash out, especially if he gets an interesting enough offer. Although saying that he’d likely want to remain so as to be protected by the Oculus and Facebook legal umbrella during the Zenimax lawsuit – and others. That doesn’t rule out the possibility of someone else, another ‘known entity’ leaving Oculus, however. There’s going to be an increased drive by companies to acquire talent within the industry, especially with new players on the horizon in Asia, etc. Don’t be surprised if there’s some inter-company executive headhunting that occurs; and don’t be surprised if it is a real surprise as to who.
And speaking of relations between companies…
Via the cutting open of a chicken, the entrails clearly predict…
Patent Wars: The Family Atmosphere Is Over
Whilst the various hardware fandoms really started to polarise in 2016, the situation between the actual businesses involved has been very jovial. Particularly on Twitter.
Each has congratulated the other on hardware launches and sales successes. Each side showcased their execs playing their rivals hardware – and even confirming when they’d received their purchase of it. There’s been open discussion over Twitter between representatives about their work and answering questions from the other side who are genuinely curious how a problem was solved. It’s all been very respectful.
Everyone has been in the same battle, fighting the same fight for the greater glory of VR… But it’s really only a matter of time before Sony, Oculus, HTC, Samsung, Google or even Razer step on one another’s toes. The battleground? Patents. Of course it is going to be patents. Much as Zenimax are doing someone will decide one of the other companies is using a method or technology which they own and will sue. And the friendly relations between companies will get positively frosty.
Personally my money is on a Google-Samsung showdown over something relatively trivial which ends up dragging Oculus into it.
More next week on VRFocus as I turn my fantastic cosmic powers on new hardware, new games and reveal which VR manufacturer I think is going to be bought out.