Big Game Makers Cautious About Virtual Reality at E3

20 jul - 2017

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Big Game Makers Cautious About Virtual Reality at E3

Game developers have seen fads like 3-D games come and go in recent years. They’ve also seen technologies like mobile come, stay and upend the entire industry.

Which bucket does virtual reality fall into?

It’s clear the technology has passionate believers. But at this week’s E3 game convention here, it became equally clear in conversations with executives at big game companies that many of them aren’t ready to proclaim the next big thing in entertainment.

“Interested and cautious,” was the pithy response provided by Strauss Zelnick, chief executive and chairman of Take-Two Interactive Software, when asked to describe his feelings about virtual reality.

“Interested because there’s so much excitement around it,” said Mr. Zelnick, whose company publishes the Grand Theft Auto series of games.

Moments later, doubt crept into his voice. “Do we want to sit in a room with a vision-occluding headset for a long period of time?” he asked. “I’m not saying we don’t. I’m not sure.”

His uncertainty reflects that very few members of the public have had an opportunity to try a modern virtual reality headset for any serious amount of time. There are contraptions on sale that let you use your smartphone as the screen in a virtual reality headset. But the first real test for the technology will come late this year and early next when headsets are scheduled to go on sale from Oculus VR, Sony and a tag team of HTC and Valve.

There are many reasons to question whether virtual reality will take off. It has been considered the next big thing in entertainment for a few decades, and while developers have made progress in reducing the discomfort virtual reality induces in some people, that feeling may never go away for certain types of fast-moving content.

In an interview at E3, Brendan Iribe, chief executive of Oculus, said the hesitation some executives were showing toward virtual reality was more of a financial calculus than anything else. Executives are naturally wondering how many headsets companies will be able to ship over the next year and, by extension, how big the audience will be for them to target with virtual reality games. Prices for the systems haven’t been announced.

“There’s not a consumer market yet,” said Mr. Iribe, whose company was acquired by Facebook last year for $2 billion.

Even if some big publishers aren’t yet investing in virtual reality games, Mr. Iribe said talented developers were fleeing big game companies because they said they believed the time for the technology had arrived. He mentioned John Carmack, the chief technology officer of Oculus and a game industry pioneer, who left the game company ZeniMax Media because he said he believed it was not committed enough to virtual reality. (ZeniMax, which owns the game developer Bethesda Softworks, is suing Oculus over Mr. Carmack’s departure.)

“Developers are convinced it’s going to come,” he said. “It’s a dream we’ve all been waiting for.”

Wrote by NICK WINGFIELD

Read more: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/author/nick-wingfield/

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