Wave goodbye to the family; we’re all going to be spending a lot of time in VR this Christmas.
VR has had busy weeks before. We have, on occasion at Upload, been stretched thin to review everything on the way. But last week’s release of Pistol Whip kicked off easily the busiest season of releases we’ve yet seen for the platform. In fact, there are arguably more exciting VR games on the way these next two months than there are traditional games.
Take this week, for example. Whatever headset you own, there’s something in store for you. For starters, there’s the launch of adorable VR puzzler, The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets, and a feature-length Doctor Who adventure in The Edge of Time. These are both mid-level indie releases that are likely to find a welcome home within different sections of the VR audience.
Rift owners, meanwhile, can finally enjoy the AAA juggernaut that is Insomniac’s Stormland, and PSVR finally gets Golem. That’s not to mention the launch of promising escape room game, Last Labyrinth, and the PSVR version on Contagion: Outbreak. Whew, and breathe.
This week alone makes it a great month for VR, but there’s plenty more to come. In December, there are PC VR heavyweights Budget Cuts 2 and Boneworks releasing within two days of each other. All that, and there’s still a handful of 2019-promised games without dates (Espire 1 and Phantom: Covert Ops, anyone?). There’s also some small part of us keeping the flame alive for Valve’s VR game releasing this year but, well, we’ll see.
We’re at the point where I’m not going to get time to play everything I want to play, much like the wider gaming industry. It’s a good problem to have.
Frankly, all of this is a little overwhelming, but it’s also hugely relieving to see VR get to this place; a bustling line-up of full, multi-hour games across a diverse range of genres. More importantly, these games aren’t just wave-shooters and arena battlers but full games with narrative-driven campaigns. In many cases, they’re the given developer’s second or third VR project. These are not titles dipping their toes in VR’s stormy seas but games that are applying past learnings to create something richer, more fully-featured. True, they’re not all destined for critical and commercial success, but they’re still a notable step up from what we were getting even a year ago.
To me, that says something. In 2016 we were often told VR was in its PS1 era, mirroring the early days of exploring 3D game development. The hope then, was that we might one day reach the PS2-era, in which games were, broadly speaking, deeper, longer and better designed than their predecessors. VR’s loaded Christmas line-up suggests that we might be reaching those days. As we approach 2020 with a refreshed line of headsets, that’s an encouraging sign indeed.
The challenge now will be to carry that momentum into the next year and beyond. We’ve said before that 2020 will likely be a trying year for PSVR but it’s also a year in which Oculus Quest will need to emerge from the safety cocoon of its litany of ports. Facebook’s standalone has been incubated by the past three years of VR thus far; now it’s time for it to stand on its own two feet and lead the charge.
Whether or not that happens, it seems like VR is entering a new era of content, driven by more ambitious releases and built upon and trials and triumphs of what’s come before. Is it safe to say we’re finally entering the PS2 stages? Keep an eye out for Upload’s reviews over the next week and a bit, then make your mind up for yourself.