CCP Games, the Icelandic studio known for their long-running MMO Eve: Online (2003), shuttered their VR production studios in a surprise move last year, selling off their Newcastle-based branch behind their multiplayer space dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie (2016), and completely shutting down their Atlanta studio behind sports game Sparc (2017). Now, CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson speaks out in an interview with Destructoid about the studio’s reconsolidation back to traditional desktop gaming, and his thoughts about the VR landscape. In short, he thought VR would be bigger by now, and more capable of supporting a healthy multiplayer userbase.
EVE: Valkyrie, the company’s flagship VR game, was the result of over three years of development before becoming a day-one launch title on Oculus Rift and PSVR, arriving shortly afterwards on HTC Vive via Steam in 2016—a seemingly best-case scenario for any multiplayer-only game.
Under CCP direction, EVE: Valkyrie saw a number of updates designed to entice players back, including new ships, maps, and weekly events; CCP even pushed a major update to the game last year that brought support for desktop and console players, a move to help boost sales and revive the ailing VR-only playerbase. Still, the multiplayer game just didn’t perform as CCP ultimately expected, and the company officially stepped back from VR shortly thereafter.
“We expected VR to be two to three times as big as it was, period,” Pétursson tells Destructoid. “You can’t build a business on that.”
Pétursson still has hope though that headsets like Oculus Quest, the $400 high-end standalone 6DOF headset launching in Spring 2019, will have the mass appeal to bring the user numbers the company needs to see before jumping back into VR.
“If it does take off, and I mean if, we’ll re-assess. The important thing is we need to see the metrics for active users of VR,” he tells Destructoid. “A lot of people bought headsets just to try it out. How many of those people are active? We found that in terms of our data, a lot of users weren’t.”
While CCP Games has been recently acquired by Korea-based developer Pearl Abyss, the studio behind the MMO Black Desert Online, it may still have leeway to begin anew in VR when they think the time is right. According to Pearl Abyss, CCP will “continue to operate independently as a developer with studios in Reykjavik, London and Shanghai, while integrating the company’s extensive development and publishing expertise into Pearl Abyss’ operations for all current and future projects.”
Despite shuttering the Atlanta-based office behind Sparc and selling EVE: Valkyrie to Sumo Digital, both games remain functional today.