As folks continue to feel out what virtual reality can do and what works well in it, I'm interested to see what the hardware companies themselves want on their cybergoggles. Oculus have already been funding and publishing cybergames for years and now HTC have launched Vive Studios. It's a new internal studio to develop their own games and publish games made by other folks.
Their very first game launched yesterday too, and it looks surprisingly bland. Rather than a "Gosh-o wowza!" experience like TheBlu or Tilt Brush or a "This is so cool it HURTS" game like Superhot VR, they've gone with VR remakes of '80s arcade games.
"We're excited to formally unveil Vive Studios as a new pillar in HTC's initiative to drive persistent growth for VR," Vive's VP of content Joel Breton said in yesterday's announcement. "Vive Studios' aim is to nurture and discover development talent and help create content that will continually push the boundaries of the kinds of experiences VR can deliver."
HTC explain that Vive Studios is working on cyberstuff beyond games, in fields including "education, cinematic, design, social, real-estate and sports, as well as tools and applications that can revolutionize areas such as media, retail, healthcare, and location-based entertainment centers and arcades."
The first Vive Studios game, made by internal studio 2 Bears, is Arcade Saga. It's a VR collection of three arcade games which Vive say are inspired by Breakout, Galaga, and Arkanoid "but with a twist". A twist! It looks like decent-enough arcade fun but I don't know about boundary-pushing. It does have a twist though. Anyway, Arcade Saga is out on Steam for £22.99/27,99€/$29.99.
As well as making their own games with their own teams, Vive Studios will offer funding, marketing, and all that publishing stuff to external studios. It seems likely they'll seek some measure of exclusivity in return from at least some software.
Exclusivity is unpopular but, as Dean Hall recently claimed, there's so little money in making games for VR that these deals can be necessary for studios to survive. "There is no money in it," he said. "I don't mean 'money to go buy a Ferrari'. I mean 'money to make payroll'."
VR will need to become so much more popular and widespread if this is to change, which will of course require enough software people want to buy goggles for (well, and some big price cuts). For now, at least, these deals seem important to VR. Well, depending on what you want VR to be.
I am quite taken with Robert Yang's recent call for "artists and queers and weirdos" to leap on VR before it settles into dull and conversative replication of familiar culture.
"Imagine video games except AAA titles barely exist, and thus no one can pointlessly compare you to them... and that's the current state of VR.
"If we get in early enough, we can define the general public's first significant impressions of VR, and influence how people value VR experiences. We need to develop the theory, the language, and the touchstones that others will have to adopt in order to seem fluent -- we need to be the new normal here, and we could possibly do it, because no one else has defined the norms yet."
It's a nice idea, and a good post. Do give that a read.