On the Edge
Virtual Reality has long since been on the verge of breaking through to the general public. Revered by early adopters and enthusiasts VR has grown substantially over the last three years. More developers have jumped on board and experimented with great success. Although a small install base has meant most projects are little more than tech demos or cheap passion projects bar some unique examples. Sony have played a big part in bringing VR into your living room with PSVR and have many great titles to entice a wider audience. That said, the player base was 4.2 million on PSVR this time last year which is quite impressive but not nearly enough to entice big games companies to invest billions into creating new must have VR titles.
One of the biggest hurdles with VR is the entry level price to get up and running. In the PC world, you need a high end spec PC before you even start. The price of admission is just too high for most. That all changed last year with the release of Oculus Quest. This was a stand alone unit (No PC or PS4 needed) and offered an experience just as good as what we’d seen before. The lack of wires and freedom of movement on offer was truly amazing and the sale of 1.1 million units as of July last year prove that there is a market waiting for VR. Oculus Quest is continually sold out and in high demand across the globe.
The player base keeps growing month on month as covered above, so why are we still on the verge of a breakthrough? The simple answer is……there is still no must-have title on VR. Some may argue that this isn’t true but numbers don’t lie. No one game is causing players to rush out and purchase the hardware. Games like Mario 64 and Goldeneye were considered console launchers for the Nintendo 64. Games like Crash Bandicoot and Grand Theft Auto 3 for Playstation. Games like Halo and Dead Space for XBox. There are still no must-have titles for VR. Nobody is rushing out for that got-to-have game that’s only available on VR……until now!
Later this month Valve are releasing Half-Life Alyx. For anyone who is unaware of the half-life series or valve then let me explain. The Half-life series is solely responsible for pulling the game industry forward in leaps and bounds and Half-life 2 in particular is held in high regard by millions. Realistic physics, smart intuitive AI, superb art direction and storytelling all bundled together to make an unforgettable experience. Released in 2004 it was simply light years ahead of anything else out there. It forced the game industry as a whole to set up it’s game and launched Valve into the stratosphere. Winner of no less than 38 ‘Game of the Year’ awards it is still considered by most (myself included) to be one of the greatest games ever made.
As you may imagine, the gaming world has been crying out for a sequel to Half-Life 2 for years. Episode 2 in the series ended on a cliff hanger in 2007 and it’s been pretty much radio silence ever since. Valve launched the gaming platform ‘Steam’ and realized very quickly that they no longer needed to make games. Now a successful 1.5 billion dollar gaming platform, the need to develop games seemed to slip away and the gaming world have been starved of a sequel ever since.
That was until the announcement of Hal-Life Alyx, a VR only game coming to us on 23rd March 2020. Set between Half-life and Half-life 2, this is a stand alone VR only title that Valve are lauding as their ‘flagship’ VR title. Playing as fan favorite Alyx (she was Gordon Freeman’s companion throughout Half-life 2) it is causing quite a stir around the gaming world. The hype alone prior to it’s release is quite incredible.
Could this be the must-have title that will bring new players in? Well the simple answer is….yes, yes it is! Only figures after release will show how successful this becomes but it seems clear that we now may be entering a new phase in VR gaming. Quite fitting that Valve are the ones to get us there!