Despite high hopes from the industry, virtual reality has yet to really catch on. Aside from inexpensive mobile-based solutions like Samsung GearVR, people just aren’t buying in.
The key word to GearVR’s success is “inexpensive”. VR has an incredibly high ticket price currently, and most people agree the games just aren’t there to support it. Between the cost of the headset and the computer that can support it, strapping on an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive can easily cost $2,000.
Even the PlayStation VR, which has a total cost of entry of “just” $700, is still faltering.
It’s not all their fault, of course. Virtual reality games have a high cost of development. On top of the usual costs of graphic designers, coders voice actors, and everything else that goes into standard games, VR also requires specialized hardware and skillsets to create.
The two ways to overcome this problem are either a lower cost of entry, or enough “must-have” games that consumers will be willing to shell out. The flood of tech demos and minigame collections currently available for all three platforms just won’t cut it.
Last week, a couple of news items point to the virtual reality industry tackling at least the second issue.
HTC Forms Internal Studio for Vive VR Games
In a press release issued December 8th, HTC announced the formation of Vive Studios. HTC seems to be taking matters into their own hands when it comes to quality content creation.
Vive Studios will develop titles internally through several studios, as well as publish games created by other developers.
According to the press release, Vive Studios will act similarly to a console maker. They will release first-party Vive games like how Microsoft releases first-party Xbox games like Forza. The company will also help other studios bring their own titles to market, like how Microsoft publishes games like Gears of War.
The announcement comes along with the release of Arcade Saga, the debut first-party Vive game. Developed by internal studio 2 Bears, it’s, well, it’s a minigame collection. The title includes three game modes that are inspired by classic arcade games Breakout, Galaga, and Arkanoid.
At least it’s a start.
Arcade Saga is available now on Steam for $29.99 USD.
Virtual Reality Industry Leaders Band Together
Meanwhile, the major companies involved in virtual reality have created an industry association. The Global Virtual Reality Association (GVRA) is a non-profit meant to develop standards and best practices to promote VR.
The GVRA promises to conduct research studies on potential applications and markets for virtual reality, and facilitate communication between content creators, headset manufacturers, investors, and consumers.
It’s a positive step for the VR industry. Video games in general have had their own industry association for over 20 years. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) was founded in 1994, though it didn’t go by that name until 2003.
Most major industries have similar associations. They’re a way for companies to ensure that the industry as a whole stays healthy, even as the individual members might compete for market share. A nonprofit provides an unbiased but knowledgeable perspective. It’s able to weigh in on issues with the education that comes from being on the inside, but without the need to take sides in the name of the bottom line.
We’ll see how things shake out with these new developments, for the HTC Vive and for the other players in the space.