Last week we broke news that, for the first time in a while, Oculus isn’t set to attend E3, at least not on an official basis. It’s a particularly somber thought at first; the multi-story booth that the company hauls along to various shows is usually one of the shining stars of the LA Convention Center. The alien logo ringing out across the various other stalls and rows is arguably now as identifiable as the designs sported by Microsoft for its Xbox and Sony for its PlayStation.
For the staff working the event though, its absence is likely something of a relief given the Rift always attracts the biggest queues, especially now that the public will be let onto to show floor for the first time ever this year.
The move is perhaps coincidentally part of an increasing trend of a lack of support for the official E3 event. Last year EA followed in Activision’s footsteps and moved its showcase off-site, for example, fueling the ongoing discussion about E3’s decreasing relevance in its wake. Maybe Nintendo’s age of digital press conferences and general playing by its own rules is the way to go. It’s certainly a safe bet that Oculus owner Facebook has little interest in E3; it’s never had a notable presence there itself in any capacity other than VR and the self-made apps like Spaces seem ill-suited to the show.
E3 is an expensive event for publishers to attend and, while they’d never talk about it openly, their hesitation to attend is growing increasingly clearer. Why spend maybe half a million dollars or more on three days of expo space where you fight for attention when, in the age of the ever-connected internet, you can go right to your audience. It’s probably more beneficial to get this year’s Call of Duty in the hands of Pew Die Pie than it is to splash out on a huge booth for it.
But, as disappointing as this news must sound for VR enthusiasts, Oculus doesn’t need a booth on the showfloor to have a great E3.
It’s safe to say that, for the most past, we know what’s coming to Rift on the Studios front for the rest of 2017. A bunch of new games were revealed just a few months ago at GDC, and Oculus is promising to release one exclusive game every month this year. We’ve already seen titles like Robo Recall, Rock Band VR and, most recently, Wilson’s Heart, but there are still plenty of others to come. Lone Echo, The Mage’s Tale, From Other Suns, and Brass Tactics are just a few of the Rift games to look forward to over the next eight months.
Oculus isn’t in much of a rush to reveal new content, then (although, as a precaution, I’ll say there’s always a chance we’ll see some). But the Rift is obviously about much more than Studios’ games, and I expect to see the headset littered about the showfloor, as it has been in previous years.
Indie support, for example, is an increasingly important part of E3, and it’s where the VR scene thrives. As other publishers continue to invest in this growing movement — which itself has replaced a tier of gaming we once thought would dissolve into thin air — we’ll continue to see multiplatform VR games spread over the halls of the LA convention center. In fact this is one of the things that excites me most each and every year: not the big budget shooters and lavish visuals but the small teams coming up with strange new ideas that we haven’t seen before.
When it comes to larger third-party publishers, don’t forget that last year’s show saw Oculus make an appearance at Ubisoft’s press conference, with Palmer Luckey playing a round of Eagle Flight. As the Rift install base continues to grow and Facebook continues to sink more money into content development, it’s very possible that we see the headset spring up onstage elsewhere. Don’t be surprised either if someone from Oculus is on-stage at the PC Gamer Show this year to talk about new content as well.
Ubisoft may have new VR games to show, or perhaps Zuckerberg and co. will have convinced Bethesda to bring its VR port of Fallout 4 to the Rift. Personally, I’m hoping EA is prepping something a little more substantial for VR support in Star Wars: Battlefront 2, though it may align itself more closely with PSVR there.
And let’s not forget that the lack of an official Oculus booth does not mean no VR at E3. With Sony set to showcase PSVR, Microsoft readying to launch the VR-ready Project Scorpio, and the promise of more from HTC and Vive, as well as possible reveals from others, it’s very likely Rift will be able to piggyback off of other’s announcements and generate its own solid set of headlines without much help from Oculus itself.
E3 is always an exciting event for the wider gaming industry, but announcements like this can feel like the wind has been knocked out of its sails a little. But between support from indies, publishers, and multiplatform content, I’m confident those in camp Rift will still have plenty to look forward to in June. Bring it on.