VR First and Crytek have gone their separate ways. Established last year as a global VR educational initiative outfitting schools with tech and equipment to teach the emerging field, VR First split from the developer in order to separate Crytek's commercial interests from its mission.
"VR First is fully independent, and supports VR First labs no matter their choice of engines or platforms, and welcomes all hardware and software providers," VR First co-founder Ferhan Ozkan said. "We believe that if you have a noble vision like 'Democratization of VR/AR Innovation,' it deserves to be protected from any competitive sacrifice. This vision could only be achieved with a vendor-neutral approach."
A representative told GamesIndustry.biz that VR First "achieved independence" at the beginning of 2017 with the help of yet-to-be-announced partners.
It's been a difficult year for Crytek. The company reportedly struggled to meet payroll for about six months, sold or shuttered development studios in Budapest, Sofia, Seoul, and Shanghai, and then cut staff at its Frankfurt headquarters.
On the other hand, VR First looks to expand considerably in the coming year. The program today announced plans to nearly double its number of dedicated AR/VR labs at schools and science parks to 50 this year. Currently there are 26 such labs in operation worldwide, with 581 partner institutions in the VR First Network. The outfit is also working with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and companies in the VR industry to create standards for AR, VR, and mixed reality content creation and consumption.
Despite its previous ties to Crytek, VR First did not see the sort of enthusiasm for the CryEngine one might have expected among developers at its labs. The program said Unity was the preferred engine for 48% of its developers, with Unreal Engine chosen by 20%, and CryEngine the pick of just 14%.