In the rising tide of Virtual Reality buzz nothing is moving faster than the equipment. In particular with the gaming console giants and their takes on evolving into virtual reality. The aspects of virtual reality that are difficult to manage remain usability, content and player experience. Like anything else these issues will take time and innovation to resolve. So you’re thinking this is about virtual reality tech. Yes and no. This is also about strategy. Something game console creators have been playing with for years.
I’m going to go ahead and call the eventual winner of the coming console virtual reality war. Nintendo. You say what?!? PlayStation has put its best try out there and Microsoft has just let it slip that they are releasing the Kraken soon in Project Scorpio. Yes and then Nintendo mentions as a by your leave ‘oh the Switch’ could have virtual reality capabilities. Well that’s rather convenient.
Take a jaded look at the history of these companies when it comes to producing gaming consoles we want. Nintendo is the old dog for a good reason. Mostly patience and the ability to rope and dope the other two into putting out first so they can learn from their mistakes. It happened years ago when PS3 and XBox 360 were duking it out for console supremacy. Nintendo let them go with graphics as a main definer for enhanced user experience. Then they went with quality of game play to quietly release the Wii. Which much like the Switch, sold out immediately and then indefinitely for about a year. Remember this example as you read. It’s called a pattern.
Now back to those factors from before. Let’s look at usability. By the way in case you haven’t thought about it. The Wii was the first foray into Virtual or Augmented Reality gaming. Nintendo already has the controllers. Consider Wii the dry run. With the Wii, Nintendo explored placing real action into a game space. All of those kinks have been being puzzled over and worked on for years now. It seems to me Xbox was still solving red ring of death issues. While PlayStation never really got their Move adjustment off the ground.
When it comes to content PlayStation usually wins the war for modern adaptations. This is done so well that they never introduce a new advance without a lusted after Triple A title to sell it. Most recently this was done with the Batman VR launch. The tried and true method for PlayStation to go to market with. Microsoft has never been a really heavy content hitter beyond the Halo franchise. So they have less to build on there. Consequently this is why they usually lean to power. Nintendo has the most famous video game characters of all time. (slight audio feedback, plunk) Yes you did hear an audible mic drop with that statement.
An amazing player experience is the light at the end of the game design tunnel. The aspects of an enjoyable player experience is interpreted by each company differently and given different weight. Microsoft is the king of creating a beast which cannot be fed. The consumer says I want a console that may drop my city’s electric grid, Microsoft calmly answers with hold my beer. No one does that better. The leaked specs for Project Scorpio is just confirmation of the Microsoft plan. It reminds me of Dodge selling Hemis. Yes it’s a magnificent engine, however is the average consumer going to need all that bang for their buck?
PlayStation is usually a bit more subtle, low-key and incorporates lived life with their console use. A lesson well learned when they became the most affordable Blu-ray player on the market just in time to capitalize on HD DVD losing the war with Blu-ray. PlayStation expects the players to live outside of the game experience. Mostly because Sony is a multimedia company. They have DVDs to sell. In that same vein Microsoft is a computer company. Guess what they have to sell.
The Game Company
So let’s be clear, there is only one game company in this comparison. That company is Nintendo. They aren’t a branch, they are not a subsidiary or investment. They live and breathe games. The advantage of that is that while Sony and Microsoft are viewing this situation as an innovation for multiple tiers of their technology, Nintendo is viewing this as another way to make games. Games that will focus specifically on game play to define the quality of the player experience.
The Wii was successful because Nintendo built a console that enhanced game play. PlayStation and Microsoft were selling hi resolution interactive movies. Don’t get me wrong those are great, but not a game does it make. It just so happens that a decent amount of those turned out to be really good games. When making games is the focus, graphics should not be the catalyst for innovation. It seems simplistic to state it but game play should be.
Virtual Reality Games
Enter Virtual Reality which is a method to incorporate created worlds into real life. This is a medium to enhance whatever experiences the user would like to enhance. The natural assumption would be that virtual reality would be benefitted by the most powerful graphics engine on the planet. Yes if you’re inserting someone into a movie or a documentary. The Scorpio specs are perfect for that. However we are talking about games which are another beast.
Virtual reality game creation is a process of simplicity not necessarily of power. A well constructed game takes advantage of the tools used to play it. Nintendo is the company that has been planning in some form or fashion for this innovation without anyone being none the wiser. Reps from the company have gone on record in declaring that when virtual reality can be used to meet their needs it will be used. Tell me about those Nintendo Switch Virtual Reality capabilities again.
The pattern plays out the same over and over again. PlayStation sells a title with a console. Microsoft sells an engine. Then Nintendo sells a better way to play games and kamehameha wave’s the market. HaMeHAA!
Comment below and let me know your thoughts on the most important things to have in a good VR game.