To many virtual reality (VR) aficionados, last week’s announcement that Rockstar Games would be bringing L.A. Noire to the HTC Vive is the latest in a long line of AAA videogame publishers taking their time to recognise the potential of the medium. To most however, it’s an early bet on a technology that isn’t yet mainstream. The truth, of course, lies somewhere between.
VR as we know it has existed for a number of years now, but still the general perception is that it’s a new technology that’s not quite found its feet yet. And few could blame the larger videogame audience for making such a judgement. The hardware is expensive, the big publishers and bigger videogame titles are yet to throw a stone into the pool and the true selling points of the medium are evasive until you find an experience that truly captivates you and try it first hand. Despite the fact that the core VR audience has had their consumer hardware for over a year, the core videogames audience is still largely unaware of what VR is capable of.
Ubisoft and 2K Games have made small efforts to test the waters, and Square Enix will arrive on PlayStation VR with Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV later this year. And that’s the position we’ve been in for some time. Ignoring Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) for a moment – acceptable as the company itself is a platform holder akin to Oculus VR – the most any of these publishers has offered thus far is an experiment.
You could of course argue that Rockstar Games are also experimenting with L.A. Noire; after all, it’s not ‘Grand Theft Auto VR’. However, for a company with as much weight to put behind their titles as Rockstar Games, the fact that the VR release was announced alongside the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch updates for the videogame is a huge leap forward. It’s a peer, not an underling.
And the aforementioned Ubisoft also have some interesting VR titles coming in 2018, with Space Junkies and Transference offering brand new IP that reaches far beyond the one-shot Werewolves Within and Eagle Flight. Square Enix also has the mysterious Kai-Ri-Sei Million Arthur VR, and Microsoft has stated that a Halo videogame is in development for Windows 10 Mixed Reality head-mounted displays (HMDs). So what’s the upshot of all this?
The fact that Oculus Home still has ‘beta’ in block capitals emblazoned on the application more than a year after launch is telling. VR as a whole is still in ‘beta’, and we’re now seeing the investment labours from Oculus VR, HTC, Valve, SIE and many others come to fruition. For many, this holiday season will be when VR truly arrives as its then that the big videogame franchises will come to the medium. For those of us who have been riding this train since the Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign, it’ll be a pivotal period that will be remembered for years-to-come.