E3 2016 kicks off this week; it’s the first E3 since the launch of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and the last before the launch of Sony’s PlayStation VR headset. What does the year’s biggest consumer gaming show hold in store for VR fans? Here’s what to expect.
With the launch of the Rift only a few months under their belt, don’t expect anything new in the hardware department from Oculus. The Rift CV1 is still their flagship product and is likely to remain that way through holiday 2016 and beyond. That said, the company has made no secret for what’s coming next: ‘Touch’ is Oculus’ impressive VR controller which they announced a year ago this month. Still, the company doesn’t plan to launch Touch until the second half of 2016, which could mean as early as July, though we don’t expect to see it until closer to the holiday season. For that reason, it seems unlikely that E3 2016 will see the announcement of an Oculus Touch release date and price.
So if nothing new on the hardware front, what does Oculus have in store for E3? Expect a heavy emphasis on games, with attention split between those designed for gamepad and those designed for Touch. Oculus has been making significant content investments, compelling developers to create substantial games in comparison to much of the HTC Vive content library which at present consists largely of shorter novel experiences. So expect to see the announcement of new Touch titles that aim for the same scope and polish as something like the recently released Edge of Nowhere.
While motion input like Oculus Touch is clearly the best for immersion and interactivity in VR compared to gamepads, it’s still too early for Oculus to focus only on Touch games. The company still has promises to fulfill to developers (not to mention, content investment dollars at stake) who have spent significant time and money making Rift games for use with the included gamepad. Focusing the spotlight too heavily on Touch would undersell the gamepad-based experiences that make up the entire Oculus content library currently and still likely several months into the future. For that reason, expect to see more announcements and continued promotion of gamepad titles from Oculus.
Also hot off the release of their first consumer-headset, the HTC Vive, HTC and Valve aren’t likely to be sharing anything new on the hardware end at E3. Even the new HTC Vive ‘Business Edition’ announced last week is technically no different than the consumer headset save for some extra services that come as part of the package.
So that leaves the companies to promoting games and content, possibly including HTC’s first first-party title Front Defense, which made its initial debut last week during Computex 2016. While Valve’s The Lab (a collection of VR mini-games) is one of the system’s most popular VR experiences, it’s likely still too early for the company to announce any new first-party VR content, though we can only hope this it’s in the works in the background. That means most of what you’ll be seeing from HTC and Valve is promotion of the work of third-party SteamVR developers.
HTC and Valve do have speed of delivery and motion controls on their side, though price and content library—which consists largely of ‘experiences’ and demos rather than full-fledged games—are two major challenges at the moment. While it’s almost certainly too early for a price drop, expect the companies to make regular mention of the fact that the Vive is now shipping within 72 hours of order.
Of the ‘big three’, Sony has the most on the line at E3 2016. This is the last E3 before the PlayStation VR headset launches in October. Sony announced the final release date, price, and specifications of the headset earlier this year at GDC 2016, leaving little to the imagination.
Now it’s going to be all about the PSVR games, and Sony could end up with one of the strongest launch lineups in town. We’ve seen little but polished VR experiences on PlayStation VR, thanks no doubt to Sony’s longstanding developer relationships and their own network of first-party studios. Expect to see the company promoting a large swath of PSVR launch titles, including a few news ones that we haven’t yet seen. If we’re lucky, we might see the first glimpse of the Star Wars Battlefront PSVR experience that Sony announced at GDC earlier this year.
The rumored PlayStation 4.5 (AKA ‘Neo’), has been confirmed by Andrew House, president and global chief executive of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Financial Times reports. And while the newer PlayStation, capable of 4K gaming, will support the PlayStation VR headset, it won’t actually be revealed at E3, House said.
While landing just outside the ‘big three’ Razer’s open-source VR initiative, OSVR, has been chugging alongside the major players at most gaming and VR events. The company certainly has something to show at E3 and has been teasing the line “2x the Reality,” which some have speculated to mean twice the resolution of the current HDK 1.4 headset (1080p).
OSVR has been counting down the days in anticipation of E3 on their social media channels saying “We’re going to be showcasing a whole new line up of content guaranteed to blow your mind and lots more!”
Microsoft is the biggest wildcard of the bunch right now. The company hasn’t yet tipped their hand on plans for virtual reality and Xbox, but the rumored Xbox 1.5 (AKA ‘Scorpio’) may have something to do with it.
Microsoft can’t ignore VR forever, especially with Sony pushing PSVR as a major selling point for their would-be customers. Microsoft needs to get on board with VR and they need to do it quickly. Given their close relationship with Oculus on the Windows and PC side of things, it seems like the Rift on Xbox could be a natural fit to bring VR to the platform ASAP, before Sony can use it to gain a further lead in the console wars.
Although this sounds reasonable, I wouldn’t put my money on seeing such an announcement at E3 2016, the timing doesn’t feel right just yet. More likely, we may finally get more info on the Xbox One to Rift streaming feature that Microsoft and Oculus jointly announced around this time last year.
Road to VR is boots-on-the-ground at E3 2016 all week. Stay tuned for the best of what we find.
Disclosure: At the time of publishing, Razer is running advertisements on Road to VR