Was VR the biggest loser of E3 2017?

As an early adopter of virtual reality, you do of course run the risk of expensive tech becoming irrelevant. For me personally that investment was the PlayStation VR headset. As you will have seen over the past two years, we are big champions of VR at Develop. So it was a little bit disheartening to see as little of it as we did. But while it might have been the seen the least during E3 2017, it certainly isn’t lost.

This year’s E3 was definitely about power. 4K power, brand power, and game power. Something had to give way

Just to recap, Doom VFR and Fallout 4 VR were shown during the Bethesda showcase, with the former being released on the Vive and PSVR and Fallout for Vive only. We also got the announcement of Skyrim VR for PSVR during the Sony conference.

Sure, this is excellent and they’ll be a great experience. I’m a bit conflicted however because, while the big name full game titles are needed for the platform, this isn’t really that new. But I certainly welcome a triple-A developer really committing to VR and having games that can lend to this kind of modification.

Ubisoft did show off the rather interesting Transference with Elijah Wood’s backing, and it has to be said that the publisher has been incredibly supportive of the early days of VR. Eagle Flight, Werewolves Within and Star Trek Bridge Crew are all great examples of VR as a medium.

Sony did dedicate a small section of their conference to PSVR but the interesting developments were in the pre-show stream with Superhot VR coming later this year and the new competitive sports game from CCP, Sparc, coming to the PSVR first. 

The biggest title announced had to be the follow up to Supermassive Games succesful Until Dawn, The Inpatient. A prequel that really looks creepy and hopefully captures some of the fun gameplay we’ve seen from both Until Dawn titles thus far. There was also Bravo Team, a VR FPS title from Supermassive. There was also the Final Fantasy XV fishing game Monsters of the Deep, which is a game I never knew I wanted.

Recap over, I can’t help but feel a little bit disappointed. Many analysts were wondering what Microsoft would offer for VR before the conference. It didn’t really make sense to me that the focus on power and 4K, and the PSVR sales figures would convince them to try and break in to or split that market. Obviously Microsoft didn’t either with head of Xbox Phil Spencer telling the BBC "We are believers in mixed reality, and mixed reality on the PC is something we’re focused on."

So for Microsoft, it’s early days for the medium and the front room style of gameplay isn’t perceived as VR friendly. PC seems to be the focus. Does this kind of delay, or shall I say consideration, of the VR market indicate where the medium lies in future?

Maybe for Microsoft at least. During the aforementioned BBC interview, Phil Spencer didn’t even use the word virtual, staying utterly on key with the Microsoft message of mixed reality. The VR and MR platforms, aside from Bethesda and Ubisoft’s efforts, do however seem to lack a large scale triple-A backing that would really push the medium on.

The message has been clear though. VR needs to hit the next iteration quickly. Cables need to be reduced and processing power needs to be upped for it to become a ubiquitous format. From a consumer level the perception of playing with a headset on needs to change, as does the difficulty of entry.

This year’s E3 was definitely about power. 4K power, brand power, and game power. Something had to give way to make room. It wasn’t just VR either as outside of the Xbox show, indie games haven’t been as prominent as they’ve been in past E3 shows. VR might be a big loser from the show but it can only mean that next year’s VR line-up will be much stronger.

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