Virtual reality continues to be the hot topic among the games community, frequently making the headlines with each new development.
At Develop: Brighton, VR’s presence was much more prominent in the expo area than previous years, and we were all eager to test-drive headsets and games from companies like Tammeka, Triangular Pixels and PlayStation VR Worlds. On the Wizdish ROVR, you could be transformed into Pac-Man, running down endless corridors to escape Blinky and his ghostly pals – who are quite terrifying up close.
But the big question on everyone’s minds is: How long is all the hype going to last? And is VR here to stay?
“VR is just in its infancy,” says Michael Pattison, VP of third-party relations at SCEE. “Developers are experimenting and we’re also testing things out as a platform that supports VR. No one has all the answers, which makes it all the more interesting.
"We’re really enjoying working with developers on VR content. We’ve taken the approach of sharing as much information as possible across the developer community, helping communicate best practice, ensuring we all understand what works and what doesn’t.
"But it’s just the beginning. What I’ve loved the most is that VR has already demonstrated that it can offer more than just extensions to traditional games, but it can re-define the way we think about games – they become experiences and that ultimately means innovation.”
However, Sports Director CEO Roger Womack believes virtual reality "will never be mainstream”.
“No add-on for console has ever taken off," he says. "If you look at Kinect, or even Wii, they don’t have longevity. It’s just another fad. Everyone who wants a go on it has to pay to use them and I don’t think people will. I think it’s something you want to experience, and then you’re satisfied and you don’t want to go back to it. It is good for commercial use however and that’ll be where the main market is.”
With so many industries now looking at VR as a medium, its adoption curve may be a lot quicker than other technologies.
Not everyone shares that belief, though.
“We’re biased of course but clearly we wouldn’t have ploughed so much of our blood, sweat and tears in developing the game if we didn’t truly believe it is here to stay,” says Mark Cundle, managing director at Tammeka Games.
“I think like all technology it will take a number of years before you see mass adoption but with so many industries now looking at VR as a medium, that adoption curve may be a lot quicker than other technologies.”
Co-founder of Wibbu Games Liam McGinley is highly supportive of the learning implications of VR games: “VR is the holy grail for the world of language-learning games.” Developer of Wibbu Spanish: The Game, McGinley believes immersion is "integral to language-learning".
He says: "The next best thing to going to a country where people natively speak the language you’re trying to learn is for that country to come to you. VR can provide that and, if used alongside our proven teaching techniques and a motivating and engaging storyline, it could be the ultimate educational environment.”
For social players, the idea of being fully immersed in virtual reality is not always as appealing.
“I think VR has a lot of potential, but the problem is that it’s a very anti-social medium,” says Sam Mottershaw, QA tester at Deep Silver Dambusters. “Whenever I’ve tried it, I’ve been cut off from everyone else. It’s really fantastic, but I felt so vulnerable.”
We’re yet to know what lies ahead for the future of virtual reality gaming, but it certainly doesn’t look like it’s dying down any time soon. As more and more developers get on board, the competition between providers only continues to rise, which could see VR headsets and devices become more affordable for the average gamer.
Will VR follow in the footsteps of its peripheral predecessors and become a passing fad? It’s hard to say, but right now we’re excited to see just what VR providers have got in store for us.