Virtual reality is an area of gaming that is growing slowly, but has not taken off as some predicted.
Analysts and gaming experts claimed that VR would be a massive success story in 2016, but the release of the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR later that year failed to set the industry alight.
Even with the support of Sony, Valve, HTC, Facebook and many major game developers, the technology is yet to become mainstream. There’s a danger it might never.
Rebellion is one games publisher that is betting the latter won’t be the case. It had great success with VR game Battlezone, initially for the PSVR but then released for Vive and Oculus Rift. And it will soon publish Arca’s Path VR – a cute, calm virtual reality game that reminds us of Marble Madness or Spindizzy.
It’s testament to the company’s continued investment in the medium, as Rebellion’s CEO Jason Kingsley explained to us in LA: “I’m a great believer in VR. It does something different to non-VR,” he said.
“It hasn’t become mainstream yet in the way that we would hope. But, at the same time, it’s a very compelling technology when you’re properly immersed in something. Each medium brings its own things and VR is one of those where you can truly feel that you are exploring a different landscape.”
Kingsley did admit to us that VR take-up has been slow, but believes that could be of benefit to its long term future: “A lot of people are still investing heavily in it, which is really exciting. In some ways, arguably, you could say that because the take up hasn’t been ballistically fast, that’s actually good for the longevity of it,” he added.
“I think with any new technology there’s a period in which it’s adopted. Even when colour TV was introduced, quite a lot of people didn’t have colour TVs for a long time. Therefore, I think it takes a while for people to get used to the idea.
“I have high hopes for VR. I think VR games are a bit different.”
“We’ll know in a few years.”
He certainly hopes that it grows, for the sake of the games industry: “The great thing about the games industry is it is no longer niche. We are arguably one of the biggest creative industries in the world, so we can afford to sub-divide ourselves down a little bit.
“Like different categories of music, there are different categories of games and there should therefore be different categories of display. VR is one of those.”
With our experience of Arca’s Path VR, we can see his point. It puts you into a world where movements of your head guide a ball down a complex pathway. It is calm, intuitive and ideal for virtual reality. It’s not a game that would work as well in 2D and is proof positive that VR can offer something different.
That’s where Kingsley sees the medium going, offering different gaming experiences rather than 3D reconstructions of existing shooters or RPGs. And if that’s the case, we can see a future for VR too.