VR is yet to successfully penetrate the ever-growing eSports scene, but it’s taken a big step towards doing so today.
You probably know of Virtuix, the company behind the Omni multidirectional treadmill for use with VR headsets. With its kit you put on a friction-free pair of shoes, step onto a dish, strap yourself in and then lean and run, moving in VR as you would in real life. Today, its creators have announced a joint venture with Chinese publisher and eSports operator Hero Entertainment. Together, the pair will integrate VR into the latter’s sporting division, Hero Sports, which runs China’s biggest professional mobile league, the Hero Pro League.
The Omni itself will be introduced into tournaments, similar to the eSports experiment Virtuix ran back in January at CES 2016. In fact one of the league’s most popular first-person shooter games, Crisis Action, will be adapted to support both VR and the Omni. That’s bound to turn heads considering that Crisis Action has some 400 million registered players. It’s also free-to-play and available worldwide, so hopefully the VR version will come to the likes of Gear VR and Google Daydream over here.
You can see a clip of the game above, evoking a mobile version of arguably one of the biggest eSports shooters of all, Counter-Strike. It will certainly take some work to get the game playable in VR, especially with the radical new movement system the Omni introduces, but if the company pulls it off this could be huge for the VR and eSports scene that we all know is just waiting to kick off.
Meanwhile, there are a few other contenders waiting in the wings. Sony hopes to cut into the genre with its upcoming PlayStation VR launch title, RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, for example, which is already being considered for eSports competitions as well. When you see entire arenas filling out with people gathering to watch matches, it’s not hard to imagine why companies might want to make this happen for VR.
Virtuix and Hero Entertainment will also develop ‘Active VR’ content and product bundles for both the US and China. On this end, Chinese amusement machine supplier UNIS has announced that it will purchase between 5,000 and 10,000 Omni units for use in arcades and entertainment centers across the country. While the Omni is a fun device, many were skeptical that the high price point – $699 – and large, bulky design would keep it from being embraced by the home market. That may well be true, but it appears the device is certainly finding an audience elsewhere.