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8th July 2021

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VR We There Yet?

Weekly Roundup: PSVR launches, Square Enix backs premium on mobile and Microsoft makes hay

We're still in the traditional pre-holiday rush this week on the news front, with the seemingly very smooth launch of PSVR not leaving much room for anything else. In fact, many of the other happenings of significance were VR-related, with Steam's Dev Days event marking out the path for Vive's developmental future and Jon Carmack calling out VR's over-reliance on novelty at Oculus Connect.

There were still a few column inches going spare for those working on the traditional single plane, however, and this week Square Enix signalled its commitment to premium mobile games - which have brought it great financial and critical success with major IP adaptations of Hitman, Deus Ex and Tomb Raider. Square Enix Montreal head Patrick Naud told GamesIndustry.biz that, even when the shift to mobile was decided upon, the premium DNA of his studio meant that there was no real choice of which business model to follow.

"It's something we wanted to do," Naud said. "We were still in pre-production for the next Hitman and we thought, let's try this. The mindset of the studio was very, very premium. The mindset was Montreal, actually. Montreal is premium. It's about big, blockbuster experiences.

"There's so much content coming out that you're exposed to a lot, but it's not all good"

Patrick Naud, Square Enix Montreal

"There's so much content coming out that you're exposed to a lot, but it's not all good," he continued. "On a given week where you might get featured by Apple, there's another 100 games that aren't at the same level of quality. The player might not be getting a great experience, especially the kind of player that will try a lot of free-to-play games without being really satisfied. It doesn't help the cycle."

Microsoft had an interesting week, taking a relatively pro-active defensive stance whilst Sony took the stand. Phil Spencer was forced to qualify the comments of Albert Penello and other official sources about the relative value of the PS Pro and the Xbox Scorpio, focused on 4K capabilities, after rising suggestions that the company was fuelling console flame wars to try and take Sony's wind.

"I am of two minds on this one," he said in an interview with Gamespot, referring specifically to the Xbox One S' 4K Blu-ray drive. "I think us stating a feature that we have in our box that we think is an important selling feature of our box is completely within fair game.

"You won't see me bad-mouth what the other platforms are doing, but I am proud of the product decisions that we make and I think that we should be able to talk about it"

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox

"I don't think we crossed the line there, but as it was going on I also made sure that we remain respectful. I mean, we made a bet on a 4K blu-ray disc, and they didn't. And I'm not saying they made the wrong decision and we made the right decision, but if somebody wants a 4K UHD blu-ray drive we have a console that has one, then we're going to make sure that people know that. And if people say that's console wars, I think they're wrong.

"You won't see me bad-mouth what the other platforms are doing, but I am proud of the product decisions that we make and I think that we should be able to talk about it."

Spencer's division was able to take a more directly positive stance thanks to the latest sales figures for the eighth generation devices, which showed the Xbox One outperforming the PS4 in many major markets. NPD figures, due to be released next week, apparently show the One being the best-selling console in the US for the third month running, whilst GfK pegged it as the UK number one in September. Meanwhile, Gears of War 4 wowed the critics, making a comfortable transition to new developer The Coalition.

Over at Valve's Steam Dev Days event, news filtered out of a new prototype for improved controllers for the Vive, taking some clear inspiration from Oculus Touch. According to sources at the dev-only event, the new devices are primarily designed to combat the haptic dissonance of grasping objects, evolving closer towards actual hand-presence than ever before.

"There's a huge global audience, and thus opportunity, for the PlayStation VR. We are confident that it is going to dominate the market share of premium VR headsets due to its performance and competitive price"

Yuhui Wang, CEO, Oasis Games

But in truth, it was Sony's week. PSVR rolled out to homes with very few teething problems, likely lowering the blood pressure of executives across the board at the manufacturer. With it's sleek form factor and plug-and-play simplicity, the PlayStation HMD is the spearhead of living room VR - the standard upon which many will base their first impressions of the medium.

The launch has attracted the praise of developers and publishers alike, with Chinese company Oasis games betting the virtual farm by committing to launching five VR games within the 90-day launch window. In what may be an accident of design but could also be a sneaky dig, it's also been revealed that Sony's headset works quite happily on Xbox One and the Wii U, too, displaying the HDMI output on the cinema-esque private projection it uses for non-VR PS4 games.

Other news on GamesIndustry.biz this week

Samsung suspends Note 7 support for GearVR, as replacement units for the faulty phone continue to catch fire

Oculus lowers the barriers to entry for PC VR with some software jiggery pokery, dropping its recommended specs for the Rift

Jam City CEO Chris DeWolfe says the company's acquisition of TinyCo. may prompt an IPO

Engine startup MaxPlay cuts 90% of staff after funding deal collapses

News from elsewhere

Digital Foundry put the PlayStation Pro through its 4K paces

Sony plans to port PlayStation games to mobile in 2017, according to the Nikkei

The CEOs of both Activision and Nvidia earn a place on a list of the world's best performers

Valve promises more support for games using the Steam controller and invests a "significant amount" in a wireless VR firm

And Kuokoi Games raised $1m in fudning

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8th July 2021

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Latest comments (5)

Pete Thompson Editor 4 years ago
Again, if you're calling out MS for taking advantage of a situation then surely you need to take issue with the whole overused and somewhat tedious "4 the players" thing, as that was born from an identical situation yet that is deemed as being ok.

As for fuelling the console flame wars, GI.Biz is guilty of double stanadards here.
Phil Spencer congratulate Sony on many occasions, yet never the other way round, but you never pick up on that!
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So we finally entered the 'reality zone' - from the hyperbole and promises of 2014. A line was drawn in the sand and all the claims and counterclaims could be laid bare for the gaming community to evaluate. And the reaction was..... interested but underwhelmed!

To be frank, the consumer VR revolution (second attempt) has generated some amazing products and ushered in a brand new generation towards what immersive game-play can achieve. But as a reality of achieving the majority of the promises made during the hyperbole of the last few years - seems a little off base, expensive and under-performing.

The reality seems to have been outlined by OVR executives stating during the recent OC3 event the tech is 15 years off, the developers have depended too much on novelty selling the hardware, and that the mobile, (untethered less expensive VR approach), may be the only means to mainstream adoption for the time being.

The discrediting of a number of the evangelists of VR has proven embarrassing, and the reality that sales have slowed considerably (even in the face of the questionable "thousands are signing up for VR on Steam" comment this week). Sony seems to be seeing some success from their launch, though continued penetration is being closely watched.

But at the same time, new questions are raised about OVR's hopes regarding TOUCH sales. A December release on a system that now is recommended to have three sensors, so bringing its price point into the same place as the HTC Vive. A price that OVR executive(s) stated was too expensive (oh well we are sure many of those that criticized the Vive internally at OVR may have moved on by December to MS!)

And amongst all this, we see the founder of Atari launch a brand new LBE VR concept, and what a surprise it gets zero coverage on the consumer game news sites, along with the success stories of the VR rollercoasters and the new VR horror parks - look guys, I know it's embarrassing to admit it - but VR in out-of-home is a thing!

Anyway thank you for allowing me to get this off my chest!
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
The headsets themselves are fine. Sure, they could be cheaper and over time they will be. The real problem are the games. If you are talking about the best games of 2016, there is not one serious VR contenter among them. Even though everybody will readily admitt VR should have a head start when it comes to how immediate and intense the experience of a VR can be. Novelty shovelware is all VR can muster at the moment. Don't get me wrong, most games pass muster for the first 30 minutes, but they are a far cry from the 20-200h AAA experiences they are up against.
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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios4 years ago
Well, obviously no-one is going to invest AAA money into a dedicated VR title until the market can support that. But you can't point to cheap experimental VR titles being less accomplished than ~10th-gen AAA shooters as an omen of doom for the entire platform.
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Sony seems to be seeing some success from their launch, though continued penetration is being closely watched.
Some success? PSVR is already getting harder to fine in the US, in Japan, the demand is so great the are lining up around the blocks as supply has sold out in ONE day.

PSVR is a hit, go to reddit, where they hate everything, except it seems the PSVR. The forum went from 1k to 15k subscribers over the weekend, and its a love fest for the tech. PSVR just ushered in the new gen in gaming, now whether some are late to understand that, changes nothing.

When you have 5 friends over to check out the new tech, and at the end of the night, all 5 are now looking to purchase the system in the coming weeks, that my friends is a indication, Gaming has just changed

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 17th October 2016 5:05pm

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