It has been a very weird week for VR content. Granted it is early in the year, but across five headsets (Rift, Vive, PS VR, Gear and Daydream), there’s very little of actual note to play: E McNeill’s Skylight on Gear VR is probably the biggest launch of the week along with VR Nerds’ Lucid Trips on Vive, but you could quite comfortably save your cash. In fact, there hasn’t been much at all that’s worth picking up in all of January so far. I’ve just been using my Rift as a very expensive sleep mask (as modeled above).
I’m not saying there’s reason to be worried; the start of the year is always slow for game releases, and we probably won’t see things pick up for a few more weeks yet. But this week does serve as a good opportunity to take a look at each headset and ask why it doesn’t have anything you want to play on it right now.
For some, it really is as simple as it being a slow period. Next week will mark the third week in a row of no PlayStation VR releases, with the caveat that Resident Evil 7 drops the week after that. Given that something new came to the headset almost every week from launch to the end of 2016, it is surprising to see the year get off to such a slow start for Sony, and a little worrying. We identified 30 games we couldn’t wait to play on the headset in our recent 2017 list, and we’d definitely like to see that filled out a little more at E3 if not GDC. Sony needs to really rally the indies here; we should be seeing far more developers like Northway Games with Fantastic Contraption bringing their games over than we are right now.
The drought problem is much more worrying when it comes to Google Daydream, which is off to a troubled start. I have no idea what’s coming to the platform this year, and I still have trouble finding everything that’s available for it now. Google really needs to start promoting its mobile VR ecosystem better on a wide range of fronts if Daydream isn’t going to get left behind. Awesome games from notable developers like Untethered appear as if from thin air and then the company does very little to advertise them. This isn’t something that should be left only for developers to do.
Rift, meanwhile, is in an awkward position right now. I get that Oculus makes release dates the developer’s decision, but letting 50 games launch alongside Touch early last month was clearly a mistake based on how little has come to the platform since. I’d bet a lot of developers would have seen better sales than they did if they had given it a week or two to release their games away from the noise of launch, especially considering so many games came free with the kit. It’s been a very slow start to 2017 for the Rift; let’s hope it can catch up soon.
Drought will never be a problem for the Vive, though. Even if the past few weeks have been a little lighter than usual, HTC’s system will always have support pouring in from the indie community. It’s heartening to see so many wanting to tamper with the tech and release their work nearly a year on from its initial release, but we all know Vive’s content problem. Not to beat a dead horse, but there are so many games for the kit on Steam that it is becoming impossible to pick out the best titles. Yesterday I reviewed a third-person action game that threw the camera about, beating you into sickness. Why is that allowed to be sold? Content curation is desperately needed on Vive.
Finally, we have Gear VR, which is in a similar boat to Vive. A game called Combat VR launched on Samsung’s platform last week. It was perhaps the millionth gallery shooter in which you look around and tap the touchpad to shoot, and you were killing, in the developer’s words, “terrorists and rebels” that were just dressed in stereotypical garbs. It is brainless and serves no purpose on the platform, which is far from what VR needs right now.
No one’s getting VR content curation right. It’s a difficult thing to do, of course, and I know there are many believers in open publishing out there, but in my opinion it does hardware and the developers that support it in the right way more harm than good. Hopefully as 2017 warms up we’ll see at least some of these devices start hitting the sweet spot, delivering regular, worthwhile content.