Whew. What a year, huh? Last December the VR community was left guessing as to when the Oculs Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR would really release, and 12 lightning-fast months later we have them all and a new headset from Google to boot. This industry continues to move at a dizzying pace, and we can’t wait to see how it keeps up in 2017.
But before we look ahead, I wanted to highlight some of my personal favorite moments in the past year. Not necessarily all of the major headlines, but the personal experiences, insightful announcements and exciting releases that I really remember. We’ve all got them, so let me know yours in the comments below.
Setting Up The Vive… And It Working
I’d used the Vive plenty of times before I got to finally take one home. I’ve always been amazed by it, of course, but when you’re using someone else’s kit that’s been set up before you arrived there’s always a sense of illusion to your demo. It’s not until you plug the thing into your own machine, screw your base stations into your walls and walk around in room-scale in your kitchen that it all gets real. Having a Vive to own and use in my own home was a completely surreal and amazing feeling, and I’m sure many of you agree.
Resident Evil 7 Is E3’s Biggest VR Surprise
Fallout 4‘s HTC Vive support was incredibly exciting, but we really haven’t seen much of it since it was announced at Bethesda’s E3 showing. Resident Evil 7, meanwhile, made for a great surprise at the Sony conference, and we’ve seen plenty of it since. You can even download an excellent but terrifying demo of it for yourself. The game’s now just a few weeks away, launching on January 24th. Could this be the biggest VR game of the year? We don’t know what’s ahead, but right now it certainly looks like it.
The First VR Movie I Actually Liked
I find VR movies to be a hugely promising concept. In fact, I think the future of VR experiences is a combination of both game and film, like you can see in stories like Gnomes and Goblins. But before I saw that excellent narrative piece, I watched Ctrl, a harrowing and thought-provoking short from Breaking Fourth sidesteps the now-tired novelty factor of watching something in 360 degrees and goes straight to the heart of what makes any story worthwhile: characters. Ctrl is one of the few VR films worth paying for. Don’t miss it.
Taking People To Places They Could Never Go
I don’t want to spend too much time praising Google Earth yet again, but its intuitive design and incredible scale continues to make it a defining VR app a few months on. My favorite experience hasn’t been using it myself, but instead showing it to my father, a stroke survivor. It’s the first VR app he’s been able to easily navigate on his own thanks to the range of control options. I watched him wind around the streets of Chicago, pointing out places he’d been decades ago. It was one of the most uplifting moments I’ve shared with him this year.
PlayStation VR Blows The Minds Of A New Audience
Compared to the launch of the Rift and Vive, PS VR’s release was actually pretty darn smooth. There were solid games, no shipment issues (at least none widespread), and everything seemed to work pretty well out of the box. The best thing about PS VR launch, was watching the internet explode in VR euphoria with first-time VR triers. After two Rift development kits, many PC VR enthusiasts had already sampled what the consumer kits had to offer, but Sony’s headset brought in a swathe of uninitiated fans that were left astonished. There was a genuine sense of excitement in the air.
Oculus Touch Blows The Minds Of An Existing Audience
While many people that bought an Oculus Rift will have tried a development kit in the past, far fewer of them would have had the pleasure of experiencing position-tracked controls and room-scale user tracking as seen on the HTC Vive. With Touch’s launch, the Oculus community lit up with people having their jaws dropped all over again. It was quite a sight as over 50 titles, many of which could previously only be enjoyed by Vive owners, suddenly flooded the Oculus Store. Rift owners are now well prepared for 2017.
Next week we’ll take a look at what I’m looking forward to most in 2017. Until then, happy holidays!