GDC is here once again, all next week we’ll have boots on the ground bringing you the latest VR/AR news. Held annually in San Francisco, Game Developers Conference has undeniably been a focal point for VR the industry, and as augmented reality continues to heat up, we expect it to be increasingly important for AR as well. Here’s a look at what we’re expecting to find next week from the top VR/AR companies.
When it comes to HTC, most everyone’s mind is on the Vive Pro. The headset, revealed at CES in January, boasts improved resolution, ergonomics, SteamVR Tracking 2.0, and more, but the company stopped short of announcing the price or availability of the headset beyond saying it would arrive in Q1. With GDC being the last major event in Q1, hosted just a week before the end of the quarter, and given the presence of HTC at GDC in years past, it certainly seems like the appropriate place and time to reveal the price and release date of the Vive Pro, if not a delay.
HTC has said that the Vive Pro headset alone will be the first to launch (as an upgrade for those who already have Vive controllers and base stations), and that a full kit (headset with new base stations and controllers) will come later in the year.
Given the timing, we expect to see HTC demoing content almost exclusively on Vive Pro headsets, and there’s a good chance we’ll see a few more experiences using the new Vive Trackers with SteamVR 2.0 Tracking.
Vive Focus, the company’s first standalone VR headset, is a big deal for HTC because beyond the headset itself, the company is building its own platform to run it, called Vive Wave. For now though, Vive Focus hasn’t been announced for sale in the US, and so while we expect to find it floating around GDC, we don’t expect any major announcements, though HTC will probably be encouraging mobile VR developers to take a look and consider bringing their content to the platform.
HTC is holding one sponsored GDC session, VR Best Practices: Maximize Your Audience with New VDA2 Winners, where the company is bringing a panel of developers, who were recipients of the recent Viveport Developer Awards, to talk about building VR titles for distribution across multiple VR platforms.
Don’t Expect Valve’s VR Games or Knuckles
When it comes to Valve and VR, two things immediately come to mind: 1) the fact that the company has said they’re developing “three full [VR] games, not experiments,” and 2) the Knuckles VR controllers that the company revealed all the way back in 2016.
Unfortunately, we don’t expect to see either at GDC. For one, the timing doesn’t seem quite right. As a private company not pressured by shareholders or a board, Valve tends to work at their own pace and not show anything until they’ve reached their own internal milestones. And considering HTC has confirmed that Knuckles won’t ship with the Vive Pro, it seems Knuckles is still a ways off.
We expect that when Valve reveals a near-final version of Knuckles, it’ll come at the same time (or near to it) that they reveal their first VR title, which probably won’t happen until later this year, if not 2019.
So What Will Valve Be Showing?
If we’re unlikely to hear anything about Valve’s VR games or Knuckles, then what’s the company doing at GDC? Well of course VR only makes up a small portion of their business, so I’m sure Valve will be busy promoting its non-VR content, but in years past they’ve dedicated a large portion of their GDC space to VR demos from third-party developers building SteamVR content, and we’re expecting something similar this year.
Santa Cruz is Oculus’ high-end standalone VR headset. It’s still just a prototype for now (hence the weird name), and Oculus has been coy about a release date and price, let alone what the headset will ultimately look like and do when it’s ready for consumers.. We’re not expecting to hear major news about Santa Cruz at GDC, as it still seems a little too early in the headset’s development lifecycle. However, Oculus is planning an in-booth session to talk to developers about developing for Santa Cruz, honing in on what makes it different from building VR apps for Gear VR and the Rift.
Oculus Go, the company’s low-end standalone VR headset, was announced back in October, 2017, and is said to be launching in “early 2018.” With Q1 quickly coming to an end, it seems that the headset ought to be launching soon, but Oculus hasn’t offered an update on the launch of the $200 headset. With the Go already spotted in retail packaging, it seems possible that we could see the first hands-on demos of Go at GDC, but still tough to say, especially with rumors that the headset will launch at Facebook’s F8 conference in May.
Years ago, Oculus used GDC to show their latest hardware, but more recently they’ve used the event to focus on content. The company has confirmed we’ll see some brand new VR demos at GDC, but whether or not it’ll be all third-party content or new Oculus Studios content is still unknown. Oculus’ 6,000 square foot booth on the GDC expo floor is among the largest in the event’s South Hall.
As for more info on known titles, we expect to hear more about Marvel Powers United VR, and hope to hear some additional info about Echo Combat, though the latter is less likely.
Oculus is holding two sponsored sessions, one of which promises an overview of Oculus’ roadmap for 2018, and the other is about designing VR content for player embodiment.
Beyond those two sponsored sessions, the company is planning a host of other developer-focused sessions, some at their booth, and some in the traditional GDC session setting; you can find their full breakdown of sessions here.