Okay, listen I’m going to level with you; that title is REALLY cliché. Like I apologize for making you read that, however, it is still very appropriate for the situation. V.R. is the new frontier for gaming; the tech is new and growing every day, triple-A developers have already shown an interest in it, and it is generally being well received by the public.
While VR is nowhere near the game changer we all may have been envisioning a few years ago, it is a fresh and exciting development in a time where changes in technology for gaming are becoming more minute by the iteration. However much like a home project, studios have yet to see whether it changes the landscape or is just an uncomfortable money hole that eats checks like a gambling addiction. This is where my subtitle comes in; what better proving ground for V.R. than the indie market?
One of the biggest reasons the indie market is so appealing is simply the sheer variety at your fingertips. If you want a walking simulator, they have it. If you want a visual novel, they have it. If you want a first person simulator, they probably have it. As much as I abhor the term, the market offers a safe space for development.
With an indie, you can generally fail and not worry too much about how much it’s going to hurt when you hit the ground. This as opposed to the triple-A space, where companies must leverage risk and reward or face serious consequences, opens up the classic idea of throwing darts at a board; just keep going until something sticks.
V.R. is new technology so there is a number of ins and outs that haven’t been discovered and won’t be for some time. This gives development teams room to play around and adjust things where they can. This sort of room is necessary for V.R., while there are some rather obvious uses for V.R. in general, its full potential won’t be seen if it’s not pushed into those weird corners that would seem almost impossible to work in. The freedom of development offered in the realm of indies is unparalleled and as a result, the future of V.R. almost makes TOO much sense to grow there. However, this does also open the door to other challenges as well.
Reputation is one of the most important things a piece of technology has, just ask the Galaxy Note 7. Now I mentioned earlier that the indie market offered a sort of “safe space” for development, however much like safety scissors it isn’t 100% safe. You know how when you see a movie and it’s REALLY good but there are just one or two details you didn’t like but you ignore them due to the product as a whole? Well in an opposite way V.R. could experience the same thing, to use another analogy if developers don’t put serious effort into V.R., finding a good title maybe more akin to finding a piece of hay in a needle stack. If the customer stabbed too many times they are going to stop sticking their hand in. It is incredibly easy for people to damage a reputation that barely exists.
V.R. will be a ground up movement that needs to have MANY entry points for people, and while the people that have already bought into it have found success in titles like Batman V.R. and RIGS if cheaper entry points are opened up that turn out to be bad V.R. will suffer. If V.R. cultivates a reputation for being little more than two-hour shovel-ware there is no way the triple A market will pick it up let alone consumers who will likely get caught up in group think. For V.R to succeed in the indie market it has to avoid apathy and disorganization or it will never get off the ground. Many have suffered this fate, look no further than the mobile market to see what happens when people don’t care for and protect their products.
V.R. is a truly great opportunity for gaming; we have already seen the likes of Sony’s VR headset being used by people who are often considered outside the target audience like the elderly and middle-aged adults. The technology is waiting to be discovered and the groundwork has been laid. However, before we can truly feast on the fruits of labor the seeds must be nourished. V.R. needs to be grown with time and care and if it is, the indie market will be the place where it all started.
By Chris Ruskin