This week’s Field in View was originally about something entirely different. Halfway through writing it, however, I needed to stop and add up some numbers. Specifically, I needed to know how many games had released on the HTC Vive over its first six months on the market.
Wait, six months? Really?
It’s true; the Oculus Rift released at the very end of March and the Vive came just a few days after it in April. Major consumer-level VR is officially now six months old. I can’t quite believe it myself, having followed the Rift since the days of its Kickstarter campaign four years ago now. In some ways, this ‘release window’ seems to have gone by in a flash. In others, it feels like it’s slowly plodded its ways to the half year milestone.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of good to talk about. We have two amazing headsets on the market, each delivering amazing content on a monthly (if not weekly) basis. We have experiences in our homes that we didn’t even imagine would be available in our lifetimes. We have strong, positive showcases of why VR is good for the world and not just a new way to play first-person shooters. And we have groups and alliances in place with key goals to further boost the industry and make sure it doesn’t fizzle out.
There have been some great games; we didn’t struggle to fill up our Vive or Rift lists with titles from developers both big and small across room scale and gamepad. There have also been great movies, with filmmakers going beyond those initial showcases and creating powerful storytelling with a new medium. And there have been experiences we didn’t even think were possible, drawing in new audiences of different ages, races, genders and skill sets.
Probably my favorite observation about the VR scene these past six months is just how well it’s been embraced by creative communities. We can’t speak for sales figures, sadly, but the sheer number of new games showing up on Steam every week sends a clear message that developers are hungry to get to grips with the tech and start working on something new. And that enthusiasm is being reflect in the most unexpected of places, be it from the creator of Rick and Morty, the director of The Jungle Book, or even legendary rock bands like Queen. When they try it, people get VR, and that’s why content has thrived despite barriers to entry.
But there have also been some bumps on the road since March, some of which are much bigger than we’d have liked. High-end VR has been around for six months, but it’s only really been available for about three thanks to embarrassing shipping issues, mainly on the Rift’s part. Neither device really got the launch they truly deserved, though we’re sure both HTC and Oculus will learn from mistakes for their next releases.
We’ve also watched some of the ugliness that comes with spending your time in the spotlight rear its head. VR platform wars were perhaps inevitable, but that doesn’t stop our eyes from rolling every time we see a knuckle-headed comment ‘explaining’ why the Rift is better than the Vive or vice versa. Hate is a sad part of the internet, and we’ll miss the days when it was absent from the VR community, but we’ll also pledge to focus on the positives of the one we have now.
Finally, it’s fair to say that Oculus in particular can’t quite seem to catch a break. Ever since the reveal of the Rift’s price it feels like we’ve had at least one bad bit of news out of the company at least every two months or so, be it policies on hacking or even last month’s political problems.
But it’s time to put all that behind us. VR couldn’t have hit its half birthday at a better time. Next week we’re (hopefully) going to see the next step in mobile headsets and get an update on everything Oculus. The week after we’ll maybe see more from Steam VR and then enjoy the launch of PlayStation VR, arguably the headset with the best chance of taking the industry mainstream so far. Finally, we’ll have the launch of a brilliant new set of controllers to look forward to in Oculus Touch.
So far it’s been a roller coaster of a ride for both HTC, Valve and Oculus, but with new challengers and peripherals about to enter the fray, things are certainly looking up.