Opinion: Ubisoft's gamble could be a game changer for VR

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VR has unquestionably been the most hotly debated topic in Los Angeles this week.

There are those that will vehemently insist that VR will be a motion controller fad at most. That pricey peripherals never work and that virtual reality headsets are destined to go down the same route as 3D or second screen gaming.

Then there are those on the other side of the debate. The ones that will tell you that VR is a platform not a peripheral. That it will change the way games are played and be a permanent revolution akin to HD or analogue sticks or touch screens.

The truth is, we just won't know what VR will do until its makers stop tinkering with it and put it out there for consumers to buy.

But what will be crucial, as is the case with any new technology, is the content. VR need games, good games, and its biggest issue thus far is that not enough of the big guys have been willing to back it.

There are a massive amount of VR developers out there now, but they're primarily independent studios backed with venture capital funding. VR has yet to receive significant support from the likes of EA or Activision. Take-Two has even openly said it won't be the first to release a VR game, instead adopting a ‘wait and see' approach.

"If everyone adopts a 'wait and see'
approach to virtual reality then
nothing will ever happen.
Someone needs to roll the dice."

Yet if everyone adopts a ‘wait and see' approach, then nothing will ever happen. Someone has to roll the dice and see if it can work.

Of course, it was Ubisoft that took on that challenge. This is the firm that was first on Wii, and in a big way. This is the business that backed Kinect and PlayStation Move and Wii U from the moment the tech was announced.

Some of this paid dividends, others did not. But as Ubisoft's Yannis Mallat said at E3 this week, even the failures have been worthwhile lessons.

Every studio at Ubisoft has a VR development kit. The company's Red Storm development unit is solely working on multiple virtual reality projects. This is exactly the sort of backing Valve, Oculus and PlayStation have needed.

I won't pretend that VR will be the next big revolution in video games. It's not cheap and the industry's history is littered with high profile failures.

But the technology now has the makers of Half-Life, Assassin's Creed and Uncharted tinkering with it, and this will prove crucial in the sector's efforts to convince the VR sceptics.

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