The new year is here, and what better way to celebrate it than to take a look back at the past few months and the biggest VR news stories of 2017. After all, what happened this year will undoubtedly pave the path of what we can expect from the industry next year. Though you never know – unexpected things can happen anytime.
So here are our picks of the biggest VR news to arise over the past year.
Palmer Luckey Leaves Oculus
Once one of the most well-known faces of VR and a huge drive behind the virtual reality movement, Luckey suddenly seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth last year. This followed after reports that he financially supported a political smear campaign. Though this was denied by Palmer, he still became quiet on social media after that. Then fast-forward to 2017 where Facebook, amongst many rumors and speculations, announced that Palmer would be departing from his role as CEO at Oculus. No reasons were given for the departure and Luckey didn’t really comment on it either.
The First VR-Related Death
This one’s a little strange, though not entirely unexpected. Merely a week ago, reports came through from Moscow that a Russian man has died while wearing a VR headset. Reportedly, the man had tripped and fallen down on his glass table while playing a VR game and died from blood loss due to stab wounds from the broken glass. No details have yet been unveiled, like what type of VR headset he was wearing or the layout of his play area. However, it’s hard to blame this tragic occurrence solely on virtual reality, since there are warnings from the manufacturer’s about clearing one’s play area before starting up a game. It’s also up to each individual to make sure that their play area is safe for when they can’t see what’s going on around them.
Standalones Are Stealing The Show
While the major headsets like HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Playstation VR are currently still holding the titles of quality VR experiences, people are looking for more mobile, cheaper experiences. And certainly, having to buy a VR-ready PC or a PS4 in addition to the headsets is a big financial undertaking at the moment. So enter standalone devices stage right and we see that Oculus and HTC, among others, are all working on standalone headsets too. While the range of quality on these headsets is quite broad, there’s hope that the major players will introduce some feature headsets at a fraction of the PC/Console VR heasdets’ prices.
Right now, there are cheaper devices available, like the Pico Goblin, which basically uses mobile parts and offers about the same experience you would get from a mobile headset – without the phone of course. But, HTC also recently released their standalone headset, called Vive Focus, in China. Unfortunately, there’s no indication whether the headset will be coming westward too. Not to worry, however, because Oculus has got you covered with the release of their own standalone headsets, called Oculus Go and Santa Cruz respectively. The Oculus Go seems to be the mobile equivalent of the Pico, with three degrees of freedom tracking as well. It’s supposed to release with a $199 price tag next year. No release date has been announced for the Santa Cruz, though it seems to be the higher-end device of Oculus’s standalone offering.
Windows Mixed Reality Headsets Release
The newest VR platform on the scene was built into Microsoft’s Windows 10 Fall Creators Update and released earlier this year. While Windows isn’t releasing these headsets themselves, they do support various hardware manufacturers that do. Like Acer, HP, Asus, Lenovo, and Dell. While called mixed reality, these headsets are actually just virtual reality headsets. For now at least. Since the name suggests that Windows is looking to merge the worlds of augmented and virtual reality together sometime in the future.
Sony Sells Over 2 Million Playstation VR Units While Oculus And HTC Drops Headset Prices
After releasing the PSVR last year, Sony has gone to great lengths to make sure its newest platform gets enough games and coverage. About 5 months after the hardware release, Sony also announced that they’ve sold more than a million PSVR units. Which is no small feat. Then, just a couple of months ago, the company announced that they’ve sold another million units, which puts the sales at 2 million in just a year.
Not a bad sign for VR overall, I’d say. On the other hand, both Oculus and HTC have been silent about their sales numbers which means that most people had to merely take educated guesses at how their sales are going. Though one indication of how it’s going could be the fact that both Oculus and HTC dropped the prices of their respective headsets this year. HTC even dropped the price of the Vive twice. Plus there have been numerous hardware sales for both headsets, which included extras like game keys and hardware such as the Vive’s deluxe audio strap.
Major Titles Get VR Ports
2017 has been the year for VR ports. From Rock Band VR to Skyrim VR. Major AAA game studios and publishers seem to be sitting up and taking notice and some are trying to get into the industry as soon as possible. Even though many of these ports aren’t perfect, like Fallout VR and Skyrim VR, some really do take the cake. Games that got it right include Rock Band VR, Payout 2, and L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files, because the developers behind them took the time to make sure that the VR integration felt native to the platform. Even if that meant sacrificing a bit in terms of length like with Rockstar’s L.A. Noire port.
CCP Pulled Out (Of VR)
The news of CCP’s decision to stop making VR games was sudden, but not entirely unexpected. Since the industry is so new, there isn’t quite enough incentive yet for AAA game companies to develop full titles for the the platform yet. Although, CCP’s retreat from VR could also have been fueled by their decision to close two of their branches and let go of over 100 employees, which was announced at the same time. The developer did, however, say that they will be continuing support for both their EVE games and Sparc, which released earlier this year.
Well, that’s it for the biggest news stories of 2017. See you all in 2018 for even more exciting VR-related news!