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VR vs. Work It Out

Post-E3 and Kevin E's got one question: Where were HTC and Oculus?

I’m feeling pretty good as I sit down and write this. Tired? Yes. Thirsty? Yes. But pretty good despite being sticky in a number of places you don’t particularly want to get sticky. Now there’s a heck of an image to start you with.

That’s because for the first time in a long time the stars, it feels like, have aligned and I’ve been able to get down to actually get down to the gym during a time when I’m not: a) Working. b) Exhausted from my shockingly bad sleep cycle. c) Sick or d) Prevented by one of life’s little landmines it likes to put in your path whenever everything seems to be going just tickety-boo. The reason I want to go to the gym is obvious: I’m an (almost) mid-thirties guy who spends most of his time tied via an HDMI cord to a desk for work and recreation. The results of this lifestyle are to be expected: I need to lose a bit of weight. That’s both for health purposes and personal satisfaction, as well as maybe assist with – as my long-exasperated friends can attest – my utterly unfailing hatred of… me. Don’t like this column? Want to tell me how terrible I am as a person. Please. You’re a rank amateur in comparison to me on me. Seriously, you’d just be embarrassing yourself.

It’s early days but I got to focus myself, blast out a quick session and have come back feeling pretty jazzed to start the day. I enjoy going to the gym. I always have. I’ve found I learn something each time I go. Should things continue to work out I might even be able to start thinking of plans to build up some strength in my wrists and shoulders – the latter being a long-standing annoyance I may have mentioned briefly on a previous column. I tore… something… in my shoulder. Following straining something in it the day prior. Sometimes chivalry can get you nothing but a very annoying lingering pain that’s kindly stuck around since my teens. It’s perhaps time to address it. Especially if I can get on the actual machines I want to and don’t have to worry about Steroid Steve swaggering around the place, with every flex of his biceps making some sort of loud dubstep breakdown and making everyone feel terrible for existing.

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with virtual reality (VR). If so you probably don’t read VR vs. that much – don’t worry, we’re getting to point in the column where I make the point of the column. If you see what I mean.

I never really got to address everything coming out of the last VR vs., mainly because I was finally able to get away for a few days rest following several weeks of solid working and very long hours. Or as we call it at VRFocus, “Every Damn June”. Yes, the event that was the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2017, or to put it more concisely, this year’s E3 is almost a distant memory at this point. Consigned to the history books by time and the fact everyone needs to start worrying about Gamescom – Europe’s premier gaming event.  And you can bet that will be more of the same June brought.

Whilst VR performed quite well at E3 there were some people conspicuous by their absence. Where exactly were Oculus and Vive? Oh, I know each head mounted display (HMD) appeared thanks to this game or that game and Oculus got a shout out as part of the eSports talk on the PC Gaming Show specifically when talk turned to Echo Arena. I’m sure there were a number of ‘representatives’ there too. Other than that, though… where were they? As I’ve said many times – heck, I even said it in the story that immediately precedes this feature – VR isn’t just about videogames but about many industries. That said it doesn’t mean videogames aren’t an important part of their business, because they are. So at the biggest show for the biggest industry related to their products and the one most associated with their product not really being there is a rather curious decision.

Echo Arena artworkWas it too expensive? Well we all know how much E3 costs to attend let alone to attend and actually present. It’s why every year during the ‘post-mortem’ phase and in the run up to the event itself you hear various mumblings about whether or not attending the event can be justified financially. I’m reasonably sure HTC can afford it though and I hear on the grapevine Oculus aren’t short of a few bucks. Although it could all just be an unsubstantiated rumour, I guess.

It’s not like VR hasn’t earnt its place. Did they have nothing to show? Well clearly not and I’m sure each organisation has plenty in the pipeline and out now to make up a booth pretty easily. Maybe Oculus are waiting for Oculus Connect – but that’s playing to the existing audience. Could Valve have shown off their new Knuckles controller for Vive to much aplomb? Could people have got hands on with it – public or press? Quite possibly. 

I honestly think it was a mistake for them to not be visibly in attendance, after all you want people to get hands on with VR because that’s how people learn to understand VR. We’ve all known that since day one. So why deny an opportunity to push your product, the products and partners that use your platform, educate the general gamer and rack up some interest. At the very least both would have been able to gauge the mood. Get actual first-hand feedback from the general gaming audience, discover what titles coming up prove popular. And get a gist of where each company and product needs to improve, either in quality, or presentation, or reputation. You’d get to address concerns and misconceptions at the root.

Companies and products much like people need a tune up every now and then to get themselves ready for what’s to come. E3 could’ve been a good way for HTC and Oculus to get a bit of a shakedown before kicking into the second half of the year. Their own little trip to the gym to get themselves in shape. Instead Sony and the PlayStation VR have stolen a march yet again, and it has only reinforced the view for many that PlayStation VR is the true leader in VR for gaming.

Which leaves only one question for the Oculus and HTC boys and girls – what exactly are you going to do about it? If only there was an event where you could showcase how awesome you were to the core audience you’re trying to entice…

Ah.

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