As 2017 comes to an end, it is hard not to look back and think of what an awesome year this has been for VR. We have seen the quality of VR games improve greatly, as well as the volume of games available increase. We even got our first taste of what AAA publishers can bring to the table.
However, more and better content is only the tip of the iceberg. Early adopters of VR have seen their ranks grow by leaps and bounds as the price of HMDs continues to drop. PlayStation continues to reign as the king of console VR, and Microsoft jumped into the PC VR market head first.
Sure, it hasn’t been a journey without its share letdowns and mind numbingly painful moments. We have seen our share of design flaws, and the ever popular “exclusive content” train continues to roll down the tracks. But, at the end of the year, it is hard not to be excited at what 2018 might bring to all of us VR adventurers. So, let’s talk about that.
2018: The Year Of?
First off, let me say that everything I say here is just my opinion. I am not a licensed market prediction annalist, and am in no way connected to Miss. Cleo. This is just one fellow letting his mind run wild, and looking to strike up some conversation with his favorite adventures. That said, let’s talk hardware.
Love it or hate it, more VR hardware options are on the way and it will be a double-edged sword. We already know about the top two hardware manufacturers plans to release standalone HMDs in 2018. No doubt, this is what many people first getting into VR will gravitate to. It’s simple to setup and requires no expensive PC to run. Unfortunately, we don’t know what type of experience it will provide and that could help or hurt the chances of more people moving up to a PC level VR experience.
Personally, I think we are going to see a boom in standalone content, much like the boom we have seen this year in PC based VR content. This could be just the thing developers need to make VR development profitable again. Who knows, this could be a good way to pump some new financial lifeblood into PC content through quick turnaround standalone content sales. At least, if the market base is as big as the big two have predicted it will be once the standalone products are released.
Taking Control of Your Controls
How many of you though that you would have some Valve Knuckles by now? Yes, me too. While 2017 has seen a few controller options surface, I think 2018 will bring the emergence of real choice. I am talking third party controls and Valve bridging HMD gaps. I know, it’s a crazy notion, but a lucrative one.
As all the new HMD hardware starts to flow into the market, the design directions of the major players will start to become more evident. This, hopefully, will allow third party designers start making new controller options that work with the HMD of your choice. With the end of Valves licensing agreement with HTC, this puts them in a position to make killer hardware for HMDs, backed by a name we all know. That is marketing power.
While more choice is always welcome, this also highlights a growing issue among VR adventurers. Our HMDs are starting to feel a lot like consoles. Each with their own control type, tracking type, and those damn dirty exclusive games. While I would like to think that 2018 will be the year we start to see the emergence of more unified design, I think it will only be the start and not fully embraced just yet. But, some progress is better than drifting further apart. That brings us to AR.
Enter Augmented Reality
AR is not VR, but AR in VR is still VR and AR. Okay, AR is coming in 2018 and it is going to bring with it some issues for VR. I can’t help but look into my crystal ball and see a ton of AR related accidents resulting from carelessness. Hell, people can’t even seem to walk and text, let alone function properly as a giant dragon pops out of a restaurant sign to advertise a local Chinese restaurant. With VR making a leap to mobile platforms in mass, it will be inevitable that VR gets lumped into this mess as those reports start to spring up.
In 2017, VR saw its first fatal accident. While it is definitely regrettable, it was certainly an extreme case. Most of us see this a reminder to always know our surroundings, and I know that anyone reading this is probably on top of their shit. But, it never hurts to safety check ourselves once in a while. Unfortunately, for every responsible person out there, the opposite also exists. That is why I think we will see more safety issues arise in the media in 2018 and that puts pressure on the industry.
It won’t be a killing blow, but it is something that could impact hardware and software design across the board. Sure, it might be bad press, but it also brings more attention to VR. AR will inevitably lead some people to explore VR and the two together will, no doubt, produce some incredible content.
Content is King
2018 is going to be an interesting year for VR content. I have already mentioned my thoughts on how standalone markets will interact with PC VR. However, I think that PC VR is going to see some interesting shifts on its own, as larger developers start to see the value to including VR in their repertoire. I am, of course, talking about ports.
In 2017 we finally got Skyrim, Fallout 4, and Doom VFR. Three of the biggest releases from large publishing studios that VR has seen. However, these were all just ports of existing games and despite that, they freaking sold a ton. No matter how you feel about the hasty ports, and I am inclined to reflect Arline’s feelings, the fact remains that they are successful. Studios will take notice of this and we will no doubt see more in 2018. While I hope that some of these studios will take note of how important a little menu and controller reworking is in VR ports, I bet we see more of the same mistakes before it gets better.
Eventually, we will start to see AAA studios consider VR menus and control schemes while developing their PC game. This will bring more PC content with VR support as the industry starts capitalizing on both markets. 2018 is going to be the year that this shift in thinking begins, at least in my humble opinion.
Indie developers and smaller studios are going to keep leading the way in ground up VR development in 2018. We are going to see longer games, with more standardized controller schemes, and higher price points. Let’s face it, those five-dollar experiences will only last so long before they no longer become worth the time away from playing a quality game. Twenty and up will become the new norm for games and ten bucks will be our sweet deal prices. Hey, if the quality is there, I don’t mind supporting it.
Hopes and Dreams
I have a few things on my personal wish list that I hope 2018 will bring. Unfortunately, they are probably not in the cards. That is not going to stop me from sharing them, however, and my biggest wish is a set of freaking haptic gloves. I know that we are probably years away from this, but I would love to see something that starts to get away from buttons on a physical controller. I want my hands to act as hands in VR through natural hand movements.
My second wish is that 2018 brings more forms of entertainment to the VR platform. We have some amazingly talented people developing for VR, so I have high hopes for 2018. I want to see classic movies played out in VR, where I can deliver lines like my favorite actor. Give me an open universe, populated by other players that are on every platform. I want to connect with others in a virtual space and travel as a group to awaiting adventures. Give me a virtual oasis from reality.
Okay, high hopes I know, but we all have them. I have no doubt that 2018 is going to be a wild ride, but what I really want to know is what you think. What will 2018 bring and what is your unrealistic dream for the next year of VR? Feel free to share below or on our Facebook page. Whatever 2018 brings, VRtheGamers will be sure to bring you all the news and reviews you need to stay informed!