VR Digest: E3 announcements bring
big franchises into VR

The week's top VR news brought to you
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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent
written by John Dewar (@jstarrdewar) Issue 124 – June 14, 2017

VR Digest: A Virtual Reality newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent

E3 Announcements Bring Big Franchises Into VR

The annual E3 games industry conference is underway this week in Los Angeles. The big players in the industry are showcasing their upcoming games for the next twelve months.

Sony Reveals New PSVR Titles

Sony revealed half a dozen new VR titles coming to its platform. An interesting theme here is that most of them make very heavy use of motion controllers. The PS Move controllers are a bit of a pain to configure and their tracking area is too small, so it will be interesting to see how well games like Superhot VR will adapt to their constraints. Trailers:

Skyrim VR (will have PSVR timed exclusive)
Project Sparc (will have PSVR timed exclusive)
Superhot VR
Doom VFR
Bravo Team
Final Fantasy XV: Monsters of the Deep
The Inpatient
Star Child

We heard this week some reassuring details about the PSVR’s sales numbers. Last week Sony had just crossed the million sales mark, indicating a major slowdown since the Christmas season. Shaun Layden, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment America told Polygon:  “We have been sold out ever since launch and it's only within the last month or so that it's started to come into supply and we're feverishly getting the factory cranked up as fast as we can. The product itself has way exceeded our expectation and we feel with over five million games already sold in that six month period, over a million sets installed around the world, we hope we're on the road to establishing the format as a viable, legitimate form of entertainment."

Bethesda Brings Fallout 4 VR to Vive

Bethesda is bringing more than its fair share of big VR announcements to E3. The studio is behind the aforementioned Doom VFR and Skyrim VR titles, both of which will be available on the PSVR and Vive (Skyrim after a period of exclusivity to PS4). They also showed off gameplay from Fallout 4 VR which will be a Vive exclusive (Bethesda’s parent company Zenimax has been feuding with Oculus and recently won $500 million in a lawsuit against Facebook). Interestingly, The Skyrim and Fallout trailers show a lot of thumbstick movement, usually considered too uncomfortable for VR. Doom VFR by contrast has more traditional teleporting mechanics.

XBox One X

The only player making major hardware announcements was Microsoft, which showed off the final version of “Project Scorpio”, and from a VR perspective it was a non-announcement, with the company making no mention of VR support for the console. A year ago at E3 2016, Microsoft said that the console would be built with high-end VR in mind, and the new “XBox One X” is certainly powerful enough, with a GPU that would land squarely within the recommended spec for Oculus on PC.

It should be noted that Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality headsets with Hololens tracking tech still have a long way to go to be market ready, so their team has its hands full, and presumably Microsoft would provide their own HMD hardware for the Xbox; announcing it now might step on the toes of partners building HMDs for the Windows 10 platform. Another interesting detail is that the XBox One X will have only one HDMI port, so it will probably need a breakout box to support VR, like the PS4 does.

The console’s price of $499, which seems fair given its specs, drew heavy criticism; the rival PS4 Pro costs $399 and customers could purchase both the slimmed down XBox One S and a PS4 Slim for a sum total of $498, a prospect that gamers worried about missing out on platform exclusives may consider the more tempting proposition.


A VR arcade in Japan called VR Zone Shinjuku showed off what appears to be an official VR version of Mario Kart integrated with a 4d go-kart simulator. The video posted by UploadVR shows several other experiences built around what appear to be exercise machines and a fighter jet variation of the go-kart setup, all of which look like a lot of fun.

Google’s VP of Virtual Reality, Clay Bavor, talked about the power VR to transport the user, AR’s ability to bring anything to the user, and experimental OLED displays during the keynote at the SID Display Week (the link will drop you off at the end when he starts discussing the display). Google has an OLED display in its lab capable of displaying 20 megapixels per eye (a bit more than two 4K displays stacked on top of each other, per eye). He explains how foveated rendering will be critical to making the display practical because refreshing the display at 90 to 120hz requires 50-100 gigabits per second to be sent over the display cable, yet the human eye can only gather a tiny fraction of that data.

Bavor ends the talk by musing about the right time to start investing in VR by making a surfing analogy: “Now would be a really good time to start paddling.”

A recent Nielsen study reports that the most popular VR headsets among gamers are the Samsung Gear VR (43%), Sony PSVR (33%), and the Oculus Rift (33%). Awareness of the HTC Vive in the gamer demographic is only 15%.

Studio Transcendent Co-Founder John Dewar was interviewed for a book by Yoni Binstock entilted “What is Virtual Reality?: Everything You Wanted to Know Featuring Exclusive Interviews With the Leaders”. John talks about the incredible art forms coming out of VR’s Tiltbrush, Medium, and Quill; his recommendations for training in the field; as well as the possibilities for the future of VR. He discusses the manner in which VR can connect families and friends, provide new opportunities for employment, as well as the potential for it to isolate people and make them apathetic to real world issues.

VR Digest™ is a Virtual Reality Newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent, a producer of premium Virtual Reality experiences. We publish weekly on Wednesdays.

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