CCP, creators of one of our favourite VR games, EVE Valkyrie, are ceasing all VR development, according to a report on Icelandic business site mbl.is. The Reykjavík-based studio is best-known for its fantastically complex MMO EVE Online but has invested heavily in VR games. Sci-fi dogfighting sim Valkyrie is its flagship goggle-game, but one-on-one ball-lobbing sport Sparc (currently PSVR only) is a bit of a cracker as well. I see this as a blow to the viability of VR as a major gaming platform not only because Valkyrie is one of the few games that makes the tech tempting to me, despite being available in non-VR form as well, but also because CCP have sounded so bullish about the field in the past.
The halting of VR production has led to layoffs in the Icelandic offices, with around thirty staff due to depart, but two overseas studios will feel the biggest impact. An office in Atlanta is closing and the UK studio responsible for Valkyrie will be sold. EVE Community Manager CCP Falcon says EVE Online development will not be affected and that moving away from VR might actually benefit the company:
With regards to EVE, it’s kind of bittersweet that this puts us in a more solid position going forward, as a lot more focus is back on EVE Online, its services and all the technology and support around it.
The EVE Online development team was not impacted at all by these changes, and remains the same size, working toward the same goals and features that have already been announced.
CEO Hilmar Pétursson is a believer in the tech, and has been for much longer than the most recent wave of commercial VR. Earlier this year, during a presentation at EVE Fanfest, he said that the initial period of hype had overinflated expectations but that the future of VR was bright. You can read much more about his thoughts, as well as those of VR Brand Director Ryan Geddes in the interview I conducted at the event.
It wasn’t hard to find the VR doubters at EVE Fanfest. One high profile EVE Online player told me he had no interest in CCP’s VR games but would “rather they have new teams working on VR than moving people from EVE to something like World of Darkness, which was left in the corner like a rotten apple.”
Another said he was “glad that the VR side of the business will be there to support EVE Online financially.” For a while at least, I figure it’ll be the other way around. It might seem strange to see a free-to-play MMO as the financial foundation that a studio relies on, but then CCP are a strange company and to some people their dedication to VR might seem like their strangest move yet.
Perhaps it was too strange a move. We wish the best to those affected.