GDC 2017 is over. As I write this I’m sitting on a train heading home feeling the familiar mixture of exhaustion, dehydration, and satisfaction that often accompanies the conclusion of a major trade show as a journalist. My brain feels a few sizes smaller than it did at the start of the week but the few neurons that are still firing are sending out one last happy thought: this was an incredible week for virtual reality. In fact, it was the industry’s best week yet.
There are a few seven day periods that might vie for the title of VR’s best week ever. CES 2016 and the week of the initial Oculus Kickstarter campaign are both strong contenders. None of them however, ended with the VR industry as healthy and exciting as it is now at the conclusion of GDC.
This week VR took huge steps toward becoming more palatable to a wider swath of consumers. Sony kicked off the week by revealing it sold nearly 1 million PSVR headsets, and Oculus introduced huge $100 price cuts to both its Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch hardware. Combine that with the falling price of an Oculus-ready PC and owning one of the most powerful VR headsets in history has gone from prohibitively expensive to tantalizing even for those outside the early adopter base.
HTC doesn’t have any plans to drop the price of its market-leading Vive headset, but it is still doing its part to bring VR to more people. This week, HTC announced a payment plan that lets you take home a Vive for just $66 a month for 12 months. This may be even more appealing to the average consumer as it removes the need for a large, upfront expenditure.
Less expensive hardware isn’t all that GDC gave the VR community this week. The Game Developers Conference lived up to its name, providing a showcase and launchpad for updates on dozens of exhilarating new titles. Arktika.1, From Other Suns, Sprint Vector and many more new experiences are all reasons to be excited as a VR gamer in 2017. Epic even used a portion of its keynote to officially launch the highly anticipated Robo Recall for free on Oculus Home (with full mod support to boot).
Finally, and perhaps most exciting of all, the post-GDC PC VR landscape will no longer be a two party system. Before they even launched, Oculus and Vive have defined, and in some ways divided, VR fans. At GDC, however, Microsoft and LG demonstrated new hardware for the very first time. LG’s headset in particular is notable for using the exact same tracking system as the Vive. The days of the “one true room scale” VR headset are numbered.
Just by existing, the LG HMD is making the VR hardware catalog more diverse while also reminding us all that the year we just had was only a preview of an industry that honestly can, and probably will, change the world.
Whether you’ve been dreaming of this day for decades or are just joining us now, there has never been a better time to be part of the VR family. As it stands right now, this industry is more powerful, more appealing and more accessible than it has ever been before.
Nothing in this world exists without controversy or detractors and that’s ok. Today, however, VR feels like it is in a stronger place than ever. So soak it in, savor the moment and enjoy the feeling. We have yet to peak, but the view from right here is spectacular.