The fantasy of playing a true approximation of the fictional games shown in the Sword Art Online anime series has been a pop culture dream for years. Even before Sword Art Online other properties like The Matrix, or even more similarly, .hack//Sign, have hypothesized what it would be like to more truly inhabit a virtual space. In the case of Sword Art Online though, it’s taken quite literally. The characters in the show actually wear HMDs similar to the ones we have in our real world, but the major difference is that they don’t just have lenses for your eyes, but rather tap into your brain to mentally transport your entire consciousness instead. It’s a setting just asking to be adapted into an actual VR MMO.
Funnily enough, Bandai Namco, the publisher that’s been handling video game adaptations of the Sword Art Online property, already have an entire line of games based on the popular anime. They’re more akin to traditional action role playing games with multiplayer features, a la Monster Hunter or Phantasy Star Online, than they are actual MMOs. And beyond that fact, they aren’t in any way VR games – simply third-person action games that use characters from the show. It’s a bit jarring to play a game that is based on a fictional game from an anime using characters that know they’re in a game…it gets confusing, to say the least.
However, plans may be in motion for that to start changing. In an excerpt from a recent interview with Siliconera, the producer of the Sword Art Online game series, Yosuke Futami, had very specific thoughts about the possibility of a VR adaption of the license:
“VR is a popular topic right now and we are thinking that this is something we definitely have to do something with for Sword Art Online. However, this will be quite challenging and we’d like to take things step by step. It may take us a couple of years in order to realise it but VR technology is going to be implemented in the future and they’ll be VR exclusive titles too so we are researching into those games and looking into their positive parts and then we’ll decide how to implement those technologies in order to make a Sword Art Online VR game so we’ll happily look forward to making a Sword Art Online VR game in the future.
I’ve had to chance to try a VR game where I could swing a sword using a VR system but at that time it was not really synchronised so I could feel some awkwardness with it right now. I didn’t feel totally synchronised in the VR world yet however of course, year after year, I’m sure this awkwardness will be removed so I’m ready to wait for the technology to improve and so I can take that technology and bring it into a Sword Art Online game.”
While this doesn’t confirm the existence of a project currently under development, it at least shows that they are fully aware of the potential and the opportunity. The technology isn’t quite where they want it to be yet, but chances are that won’t take too much longer. It might be a few years down the road, but it seems like a Sword Art Online VR game may be coming after all. Although, he wasn’t clear if it would be a proper VR MMO or not.