There are only a handful of games console makers, and less than a handful are taking the plunge into virtual reality. Of the big three, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo, so far only PlayStation have launched their virtual reality headset and a console to match.
So, what is the future of VR console games? Do we just have PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation VR headset on console – to compete with computer-based gaming via Oculus Rift and HTC Vive?
Will Xbox Produce a Virtual Reality Console?
TechRadar interviewed Microsoft’s Xbox marketing manager Albert Penello, at the Xbox One X preview event held in September.
Albert Penello said:
“We’ll talk about VR when that happens. For us, we’re focused this year on the X launch. There’s already so much we’re asking developers to do… We’ve said that we’re building for VR. Obviously, Microsoft as a company is super invested in VR. For Xbox this year, it’s just not what we’re talking about. There are always new things to talk about in the future.”
There were rumours the Xbox One X was being produced with virtual reality in mind, but there is still no headset in sight.
Microsoft has confirmed that it’s Windows 10 virtual reality headsets will be compatible with the Xbox One platform sometime in 2018.
So, we will have some Xbox VR gaming to look forward to.
Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality
The Windows 10 virtual reality headsets, which will be compatible with Xbox One, are titled “Mixed Reality” headsets. The new headsets will be launching this month. Windows 10 software will be updated for virtual reality in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.
Though they are termed “mixed reality” they are virtual reality headsets, not yet offering any augmented reality. The Microsoft mixed reality headsets are similar to Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive headsets, but they don’t have separate sensors, they have their cameras and sensors instead.
Brands like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung are all creating Windows Mixed Reality compatible headsets, some of them now available to buy, and starting from around $299 per headset.
For the latest news on Microsoft’s step into Windows virtual reality try Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality: everything you need to know from The Verge, which covers and review the individual headsets available.
Will the Future of VR Console Games Include Nintendo?
Again, rumours circulated about another games console and it’s work on virtual reality projects, Nintendo. It was thought virtual reality would be brought to the Nintendo Switch Console this year.
However, at the recent Variety Entertainment and Tech Summit, Nintendo of America president, Reggie Fils-Aime said:
“(the) problem with VR is that there aren’t a lot of experiences that are truly fun.”
We assume he’s referring to the difficulty software developers are facing in getting some of our favourite big game titles reproduced in full virtual reality.
He did confirm Nintendo had been working on virtual reality technology for decades. But, there don’t seem to be any developments for virtual reality on Nintendo Switch at the moment.
What’s Happening with PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR Headsets – Will We See New Ones?
Sony recently announced it had sold over one million units of its PSVR headset. It is releasing a new version right now with a few minor improvements but isn’t planning any significant new technology releases currently.
What about Virtual Reality Games Development?
Virtual reality gaming is an emerging market. So, it has the problems which go along with this. Namely, costs and time involved in developing the technology. It’s a new field so much of the development work is testing and adapting to utterly new programming scenarios.
VR Game Development for PlayStation VR – Skyrim
Classic Bethesda RPG Skyrim has been developed in virtual reality and set to release late November, much to the anticipation of RPG fans.
It will feature the 2011 game, plus three add-ons. Using PlayStations VR motion batons, players can cast spells, and use shields and swords. The iconic game redevelopment has been described as “the complete epic fantasy with an unparalleled sense of scale, depth and immersion.”
VR Game Development for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality
For those who like flat world strategy games, Skyworld will be a welcome release. Build your empire then battle with neighbouring kingdoms. The game is detailed with excellent animations and sound effects and an interesting tactical slant.
VR Game Development for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR
Actor Elijah Wood owns Spectrevision, who are planning a psychological thriller called Transference for early 2018. It’s not an exclusive VR title – it will be available on standard consoles and computers.
It’s predicted to be half movie and half game where human memories can be recorded and recreated, players follow a troubled man and his family. We’re wondering here if the game may have some similarities with futuristic sci-fi classic Total Recall?
It certainly follows the trend of virtual reality gaming so far, lots of exploration, watching and less “action” than traditional gaming. What’s lost in action is usually made up in anticipation, thrills and scares in virtual reality.
VR Game Development for PlayStation VR
First person shooters have been slow to hit the virtual game market. The cost and complication of development for such fast paced and high action games have so far inhibited their release.
Bravo Team VR is a first-person shooting game from Supermassive Games.
You can play against a friend via PSN, travelling the streets of Europe fighting mercenaries in chaotic firefights. The game can be used with PlayStation VR’s Aim controller.
VR Game Development for PlayStation VR
Farpoint is another PlayStation VR game which will use the new Aim Controller. It’s a classic arcade shooter set in space, in virtual reality. It’s exclusive to PlayStation, but not a lengthy title.
Again, we see some of the development versus cost and technology trade-offs that software makers are facing.
Will We See More VR Game Controllers In the Near Future?
Yes, alongside new headsets, headset upgrades and new games, much work is also being done to bring new controllers to the market.
One of note is the PlayStation VR Aim Controller which Sony helps will improve first-person shooters in virtual reality. The futuristic design is a white plastic tube with a glowing ball on end.
Think Nintendo Wii style here. The Aim Controller launched at the same time as the PlayStation VR Farpoint, sci-fi, first-person shooter title.
If you’re a first-person shooter fan, then Push Square’s list of PlayStation VR’s Aim Controller Compatible Games, might help with making up your Christmas wish list.
What Will the Future Bring for VR Console Games?
So, the future of VR console games, at least the immediate future, points to PlayStation 4 with PlayStation VR competing with the Xbox One X, with Microsoft’s Mixed Reality headsets.
The console gamers choice seems to be limited, but if you throw in the top range headsets of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Their rumoured developments, and the potential launch of other PC compatible headsets, there will be plenty of virtual reality experiences on the market to choose from.