The first attempts to use virtual reality in games were made in the mid-1980s. But for a long time, VR gaming solutions were primitive and couldn’t attract a mass user.
The emergence of modern VR headsets such as Oculus Rift, HTC VR Vive, Sony Playstation VR, which allow you to plunge into the virtual environment, stimulated the rapid VR development in the gaming industry over the last years.
Still, a high cost of the hardware restraints mass distribution of virtual reality games. Therefore leading manufacturers of headsets significantly reduce prices, and this trend is about to continue.
The challenge remains for quality content. By itself, VR hardware has no value if gamers do not have what to play.
Exciting virtual reality games will benefit everyone. Players will be able to get a new immersive experience in the virtual world, hardware manufacturers will attain new customers, and game developers will make a profit from selling their games.
How big is VR in the gaming industry?
According to SuperData Research, the gaming industry in 2017 earned $108.2 billion. That is the highest revenue of the video games industry ever.
At the same time, the income share of the virtual reality games is small so far: in 2017 the VR gaming earned $2.2 billion. Yet there is a definite revenue growth trend in VR gaming due to the increasing availability of VR devices and awareness of users about the virtual reality.
In 2018 the revenue of virtual reality gaming is predicted to reach $4.5 billion. In fact, SuperData experts forecast, that in 2021 revenue of VR gaming will amount $19 billion.
Currently, high-end users bring the lion’s share of revenues in virtual reality gaming. Devices like the HTC Vive and Playstation VR have attracted hardcore gamers. While mobile VR leads in users’ quantity, the platform earned only 15% of VR games revenue last year.
What market players stimulate industry growth?
Today, Sony, Oculus, HTC, Google, and Samsung are the key vendors in the virtual reality gaming market. These companies increase mass knowledge about virtual reality in order to expand sales market. For instance, Sony was sending their first VR headsets to some potential customers, giving them two weeks of free testing.
There is a constant competition between VR gaming giants to increase their market shares, which stimulates the development of the industry as a whole.
The latest developments that the virtual reality industry leaders are currently working on include standalone headsets with positional tracking.
Google and Oculus are currently working on their innovative standalone VR headsets. Both devices will offer positional tracking and 6DOF (six degrees of freedom). That means tracking the rotational and translational motion of the player.
Leading companies also acquire innovative startups in pursuit of competitive advantage. In 2017 Samsung acquired a virtual reality app studio VRB, Microsoft has bought social VR app AltspaceVR, and Google acquired one of the most successful VR gaming companies – Owlchemy Lab.
In addition, there is constant price competition, especially between Sony, Oculus, and HTC. In June 2018 Samsung was selling Gear VR headsets with controllers just for $99.99 instead of their regular price of $129.99. Thus, users could buy innovative VR device at a remarkably low price.
Today, the choice of virtual reality games is pretty limited, compared with traditional video games. Vendors are interested in attracting game developers to expand the range of offers on their platforms. That is whу big companies provide free SDKs for virtual reality development environments and support indie game developers.
What are VR game genres?
Now genres of virtual reality games are the same as those of traditional video games. But it is likely that with the development of immersive technologies brand new game genres will appear.
The shooter is an action game with the main purpose to kill the enemies and proceed through missions without being killed. It is the most popular genre among console games. Shooters often attract high-end users.
At the same time, VR shooter is one of the hardest to develop game genres. That is a challenge for the developers to provide instant response to player’s actions, freedom of movements, consistent visual and sound orientation.
The freedom of moves in virtual reality shooters is usually critical for comfort gameplay. When developing VR shooters, it is necessary to adjust game mechanics with motion restrictions in the real world.
In 2017, shooter Superhot made the top three in sales of VR games on both PC and Play Station. This first-person shooter with unique and stylish graphics requires two controllers to attack the enemy. With one controller, the player shoots, and with another one, for example, throws an object at the enemy’s head.
The racing game іs a competition with any real or fantastic vehicles in different settings.
VR racing games have tremendous development potential. According to Statista research, 48% of players reveal a desire to play VR racing.
A player in virtual reality racing usually sits in an armchair, as if they were driving a real car. That simplifies the development of virtual reality racing games since you do not need to take into account the spatial motion of the player in reality.
The main advantage of VR racing games is the sense of speed and the natural depth of field, which can’t be achieved in traditional racing games.
To increase the immersive effect VR game developers use object-based audio, which is, for example, a noise of the engine, a rustle of cars rushing by, sounds of surrounding nature. Object-based audio includes an audio object itself and metadata describing its location and trajectory. So the player hears each sound from its own source.
A realistic racing simulator, Project CARS is very popular among racing fans. The player can examine more than 70 cars on more than 30 routes. Project CARS user feels immersed in the game as a real racer wearing a helmet.
Horror is the game where the player is challenged to survive or solve some mystery in a dangerous and scary ambiance.
The problem with most of the horror games is that they are predictable, therefore not scary for the experienced players. But it is one thing, to be a third-party observer of horror, and quite another to be its participant. With the same plot of the game, the virtual reality player experiences terror due to immersion in the game ambiance.
In the VR horror games, it is crucial to creating the immersive experience using the play of light and shadow, scarcely perceptible movements and object-based sounds.
Haptic feedback opens new horizons to horror game developers as it can enhance the playing and bring more thrill by some unexpected touch sensations.
Horror game Arizona Sunshine exploits the hot zombie theme. Arizona Sunshine is a VR hit on PC thanks to a terrifying realistic graphics and well-implemented locomotion over long distances by teleportation. Thus, the player does not experience motion sickness, which often occurs when moving in a virtual reality environment.
Adventure games are a leading genre to play in a VR headset. 73% of Statista respondents were willing to play adventure games in a virtual reality environment.
The narrative comes to the forefront of the adventure games. Player solves puzzles and explores the environment to open new pieces of the story.
VR adventure games rarely imply intense physical actions or locomotion. But they are full of intellectual tasks.
In-game actions to solve puzzles must be consistent and intuitive. It is preferable to reconcile mini-games with the narration to keep the player immersed in the game world.
Virtual reality adventure games is a highly competitive genre. Sometimes, excellent graphics and enjoyable puzzles are not enough to stand out.
For example, Rick and MortyVirtual Rick-ality is a multiplatform game using the core adventure game mechanics: solving puzzles and exploring the virtual reality environment. What makes the VR game exceptional is a hilarious plot, an abundance of jokes and various references to the popular animated sitcom about a mad scientist Rick and his cranky grandson Morty.
City building is a genre of games where players need to create and administer a city. Typically, these games are based on the player’s ability to manage resources, do not have an ultimate goal and include a wide range of scenarios.
VR city building games are engaging for players due to the feeling that they physically modify the environment. Thus, the players enjoy full interactivity and immersion in the virtual reality city building game.
The difficulty of VR city building game development is concerned with a significant amount of required graphics. Therefore, VR development usually takes a lot of time and money.
Until recently, there are only a few virtual reality city building games. One of them is CloudCity VR – the first-person city builder.
CloudCity VR gives the player complete freedom in building the city and the opportunity to enjoy the results while walking through the recently created world. The dynamic weather and the change of day and night make user’s experience even more realistic.
Casino and poker
Casino and poker gaming includes a set of games: slot machines, card games, roulette. Casino games are extremely popular, while their mechanics are quite simple.
Virtual reality casinos mix the accessibility of online gambling and luxury setting of a real casino. Also, VR casino significantly expands the interaction between players.
SlotsMillion VR claimed themselves as the first virtual reality casino. They offer 40 different games altogether. SlotsMillion VR is a casino lounge on the 80th floor of a skyscraper where the user can play, chat and even hang around the bar.
Social simulation is the environment with complex rules and relations based on real-life situations. An interaction between players is the main objective of social simulations. Players communicate with each other using text, sound, gesture, voice or touch.
VR social simulations allow players to visit incredibly beautiful locations or fantasy worlds. At the same time, the quality of communication is very close to the real one.
Despite this, users have little interest in virtual simulators only as a platform for communication. Therefore, developers of social simulations are looking for non-standard ways to attract players.
For example, Sansar provides a platform where the user can create unique virtual spaces and share them with others. Users do not need to be virtual reality developers to do this. Sansar assets allow designing environment with a minimum set of skills.
How will VR change games?
We are just beginning to learn about the potentialities of virtual reality. But VR is already changing the conventional world of video games.
Fairy-tale virtual worlds
There is a range of virtual fairy-tale worlds the players want to dive into. Virtual fantasy worlds are so much attractive as they are entirely different and disconnected from the real world.
VR app developers create comprehensive stunning surroundings. Walking around these picturesque places can be the excellent entertainment itself.
Some games allow the players to create their fairy-tale worlds from scratch. This year a long-awaited Minecraft VR came up. In Minecraft VR only imagination is the limit in creating the 3-dimension world.
Haptic feedback allows feeling objects by sensual recognition of their shapes, textures, weight. Being able to sense “hand presence” makes virtual reality experience much more immersive.
Haptic feedback devices are becoming quite popular, in particular, thanks to the efforts of Oculus. They have developed and actively promote Oculus Touch controllers.
VR gloves can enhance the effect of really sensing objects. VR gloves, such as Hands Omni, GloveOne and Manus VR promise to bring a feeling of virtual reality in your hands. But the price of virtual reality gloves is too high for mainstream players at the moment.
The player is the main character
Virtual reality changes the way users experience games. Immersed in VR applications, our brains think that we are actually in the scene.
Therefore, well-designed virtual reality apps allow the player to feel the main hero of events. Immersion in a three-dimensional environment and estrangement from reality make a player lose his own identity and become a game hero.
Games as social networks
According to the numerous studies, players consider social interaction to be one of the main motives to play. Therefore, many developers of VR games stake on social networking between players.
In a virtual network, each participant is represented by a 3-dimension avatar. Even though avatar isn’t your body, there is a sense that you can physically interact with the others. For example, a handshake in the virtual world feels much like the real one.
Virtual reality experts tend to think that a definite VR game hit has not yet been created. At the moment in virtual reality, the most popular games are those that we are used to in traditional video gaming. Shooters, adventure, and racing games get the highest revenue.
Players have not genuinely experienced what virtual reality in gaming is. Besides VR game developers, for the most part, use successful mechanics from traditional video games.
Therefore, unusual game mechanics, which are taking advantage of the virtual reality potential, can attract enormous users’ attention. To create a virtual reality game hit, you need to combine the creative thinking of game designers and the knowledge of technical nuances that VR development companies have.
The further development of virtual reality technology, such as increasing freedom of movement, haptic feedback, the ability to taste and smell, can revolutionize virtual reality games and immerse the player in the VR environment, using as many sensory systems as possible.