Are we already approaching the end of January? What the heck happened to it? It feels like only yesterday I was wondering how I was going to beat the blizzard (and the train strike) to get to my friend’s place for some New Year’s fun and games. Now we’re rapidly closing in on February and even CES seems like it is becoming a distant memory. Well, if you’re like me it won’t be a memory for long, because next week we’re having our little Post CES Review event in London – for which details can be found here. I won’t be in attendance because I am needed elsewhere, especially with poor Rebecca consumed by illness, but it should be fun and informative. Kevin J and Nina will be on hand as far as I’m aware and the amount of companies coming to it and talks available seem to be increasing all the time.
For us though, it’s back to the business at hand. That business of course being my predictions for 2018… that I’ll have to remember to deal with swiftly in 2019 if the beginning of this year is anything to go by. Companies seem to be going out of their way to prove my predictions right before I even get a chance to talk about them. Honestly(!) This week mostly sees us lurking in the world of console based virtual reality (VR); but there’s still a couple of ones with me sticking my neck out a bit. Let’s start with the one that was nearly derailed this last week.
(By the way, readers yet to read part one can do so here.)
5) Nintendo Remains Positively Nintendo About VR
If you read my 2017 results you’ll already know that we had something very similar for last year with Nintendo, VR and the Nintendo Switch. This one however does not specifically involve any pre-existing hardware but is more in line with the attitude shown towards VR by the videogame giant. In that some people will say one thing about the company and VR in a positive light only for other notable staff to be decidedly against the entire idea.
Now historically Nintendo’s top brass have, in investor calls and the like, been open to the idea of VR and have confirmed Nintendo are at least investigating the possibilities of it. The other side of that coin is the likes of everyone’s favourite father of a plumber Shigeru Miyamoto whose enthusiasm for the tech can be described as that of a man faced with trying to swallow a very angry wasp. While Reggie Fils-Aimé when discussing VR might as well be played into the room by Shania Twain singing That Don’t Impress Me Much at this point.
Expect Nintendo to remain non-committal to VR, for the management to continue to insist they are looking into it and for the likes of Reggie to keep making a frowny face.
6) Sony Announcement Reveals The PSMR
I was tempted to say this would be part of an initial announcement of the PlayStation 5, but I think based on the previous time-scales and PlayStation 4’s utter dominance of this generation of consoles, that Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) would be unwise to go back to the hardware well so soon after the PlayStation 4 Pro. Unless they are REALLY desperate to do something about the Switch, or despite all common sense try a Vita 2 or similar I’m not expecting any hardware announcements this year. E3 2019? Oh yes, we’ll get it then. But not before then I think.
What I do think we’ll have is another announcement related to the PlayStation VR. Yes, we had an update, of sorts to the head mounted display (HMD) back in 2017 – the revised CUH-ZVR2 – and it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that after this run of hardware we’ll see a third iteration, presumably a CUH-ZVR3 with additional tweaks at roughly the same time. However, while SIE might not be as concerned about the Switch to suddenly invoke the PS5 they aren’t silly enough to ignore the developments in VR.
SIE seem pretty happy about how the PlayStation VR has played out for them, in fact from the get go they’ve been pretty pleased. The only time Sony haven’t been really in the running on console is with the PlayStation 3, certainly for the majority of its lifespan, which were thanks to its hubris and arrogance after the PlayStation 2 became all powerful and dominant. The PS2-era slogan “Welcome to the Third Place” becoming painful apropos. It was a painful lesson, one they have learned well. So, it can’t have escaped their notice what’s been going on not just with HTC and Oculus but with Microsoft as well. Wireless is in, adaptability is in, and the PSVR as things stand is going to begin to look a bit behind the times. After all it’s still, effectively, using hand-me-down controllers from the aforementioned PS3. PlayStation Move was announced 8 years old in March.
With two years under its belt in 2018 I think it’s time for PSVR’s successor to come along – not the PSVR2, but the PSMR – the PlayStation Mixed Reality HMD. Much like Microsoft’s headset it may be a slight misnomer to call it that but it works well as a moniker and differentiates it from that which has gone before. A wireless console headset for PS4 (and eventually 5) that not only is capable of VR with improvements of the original PSVR but also has augmented reality (AR) capabilities. Bringing back what SIE essentially tried with the technology before with Wonderbook but upgraded. Why not? Seems like it’d be ripe for re-examination. Throw in much better tracking and a new generation of motion controllers and you’re looking at SIE sewing up console VR for another 2-3 years.
7) Xbox One X Gets HTC Vive Functionality Added
This one may confuse some people, and I can’t say that I blame you. To be clear I’m not saying the Windows Mixed Reality HMD doesn’t come to Xbox One X, I’m just saying that the Vive does. Yes, this is despite previous tie-ups with Oculus and the Rift. Personally, I’ve always thought HTC Vive was a much better fit in terms of both Microsoft’s corporate aims and just the way the hardware is.
For the Xbox in general if they’re going to pull the trigger on VR support it needs to be this year. They missed a trick in 2017 with their hemming and hawing and the One X needs an extra party piece for people to care about it all over again. Why not VR? We already know that it can handle it thanks to those mixed messages at announcement and it’d be particularly good for HTC so they can tout the adaptability of the Vive. That and it’d be quite the blow to Oculus if they got in first considering the previous cooperation I mentioned.
If I were Microsoft I’d try and bring all three headsets to the XBOX One X and say you’re all about technology and choice. All very good things for marketing at a time when people won’t stop complaining about the lack of exclusives for the platform versus the PS4.
8) Saban Reveals VR Troopers Reboot Plan
No. No I’m not joking. Just hear me out.
As long-time readers of this column will know I’m not exactly fond of the mainstream media, websites and the like talking about VR. That’s because those that clearly know nothing about the issue will bring up things like Lawnmower Man or VR Troopers for yuks, and look down on the technology. Yes it is something associated with VR. Surprisingly they are not VR, they aren’t now and they frankly weren’t at the time either. Still, who cares about accuracy when there’s money to be made right?
Saban are obviously best known for Power Rangers in the West, but thei line-up of titles down the years (and by “years” I really mean “the nineties”) include such ‘classics’; as Masked Rider, Big Bad Beetleborgs and of course VR Troopers. Now if you were Saban which of those properties would be the most likely to be marketable in the current climate? Money always talks, even if it were a short-term thing I could see them doing something with it and if not now they never will. Would it help or harm VR? Maybe both. But as if Saban would care two hoots about that.
That’s enough for this week. Come back in seven days’ time to VRFocus for the third and final part of this year’s predictions.