There is a lot of discussion surrounding VR as a spectator sport. Some folks are even trying to brand the term ‘vSports” as an update to “eSports” for professional VR competition that can attract spectators.
But there are serious roadblocks to this evolution. Games like Call of Duty, Dota 2, or Starcraft 2 have millions upon millions of players and fans that are familiar with their respective games, providing a large base of spectators who can closely follow the action of professional players battling it out. Even then, some competitions enjoy only a few years of interest when the game is popular, and then fall off when players move on or a sequel arrives.
VR doesn’t have that player base yet. It does have something else, though — mixed reality. A big green screen and a beefy PC can be used in conjunction to instantly catch the eye of spectators. Given the way VR uses our natural body movements to interact rather than button presses or mouse movements, anyone watching can get a quick grasp on what is happening — jumping out of the way, ducking your head, or connecting perfectly with a virtual ball all make perfect sense to someone watching a mixed reality stream.
The mixed reality setup for Racket: NX is one of the best I’ve seen. First it was presented on a gigantic TV at VRLA and then I spotted it again at Unity’s Vision Summit this week, this time capturing the full match between two players in mixed reality.
I’ve just played the game these few times, so I am far from a professional. But between the first time I played it and the video above I noted a dramatic change in my ability to direct the ball and aim it where I wanted with precise timing and racket orientation. The sport itself would undoubtedly be even more exciting to watch with experts competing.
“Anyone who plays the game at home will find a very evident learning curve similar to learning a new sport,” said Dave Levy, CCO at Racket: NX developer One Hamsa. “If I don’t play for a couple days I feel my skill drop.”
Even with my limited skill playing, I found myself transfixed by the colorful mixed reality on the screens at both these events — something that makes me hopeful for the prospect of VR as spectator sport.
Racket: NX remains in early access on Steam selling for $20, with a demo version available for free. The plan is for the game to leave early access late this year as more pieces are added to it, like a competitive league and better matchmaking.