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.

Oculus

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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.

oculus touch 2016 prototype hands on gdc (1)
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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.

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HTC/Valve

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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.

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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.

Sony PlayStation

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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.

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PSVR-breakout-box (1)
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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.

Razer/OSVR

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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 Xbox

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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.

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Photo courtesy Aurich Lawson / Ars Technica
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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

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  • wheeler

    I guess I should expect to be pretty disappointed if there won’t be any AAA game announcements/reveals for the Vive.

    • ummm…

      you and me both.

    • What would be a big “AAA” game though that works in VR? There is no established formula yet, especially when you want to do more than just porting a traditional gaming experience for VR. AAA for VR doesn’t need be announced, it needs to be invented.

      • VR Cat

        A franchise like Elder Scrolls, GTA, or Fallout. These games already do work in VR (aside from clunky menus and less than ideal optimization), but we’d like to see something that takes full advantage of the hardware – mainly motion control support for picking up and interacting with objects. We’re seeing this innovation from indies, but it would be nice to also see it from the big studios.

        • They don’t work for one reason: Locomotion. Gamepad-VR makes a significant number of people sick, you wan’t see a big publisher betting their money on that with a well known franchise. Teleporting does work, but who want’s to play a lare scale game with zapping through the world? These games are about exploration.

          • VR Cat

            Yes, using a gamepad for locomotion will make people sick – just like it would if you used a gamepad to move your head around when you’re wearing an HMD. The answer is not to develop for Gamepad VR. Develop for Motion Platform VR instead! No sim-sickness, no need to TP. I would love to hear an announcement from a AAA team saying that they are developing something for for the Virtuix Omni (which is compatible with all PC and android HMDs, and no reason it couldn’t support PSVR as well). The units have only just started going out to developers though so it may be a bit soon.

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            There are not enough consumers for it yet and also not available yet for consumers, gamedev cost a lot of time and money, you dont invest in something that does not pay back or let you loose money.
            Many indies can pick it up easier as they devleop next to their existing job for fun.
            VR=VR and it lets you be able to expierence other things, PC game has its own expierence.
            You want to make a phonecall with your pad instead of your phone ?

          • VR Cat

            It’s risky for AAAs not to invest in VR precisely because game development is so time consuming and expensive. If a studio spends millions of dollars over the next five years making their next game, then by the time it comes out gaming habits could have completely changed. The majority of gamers might then be playing VR games exclusively, as I do now. That studio is then looking at huge losses, while the indie VR developers are making huge profits.

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            Your statements are totally wrong, its what you think it would be, but sorry you are wrong.
            We develop ourselves, and even VR are not that apps that makes most profits at this moment.
            Most people even dont buy high end VR because of the price, to costly.
            I like positive thinking, but also you need to be realistic when needed.
            We had already used over 100 people expierence all kind of prototypes just to see what works and what not for common people.
            One day you will feel it, believe me, your positve feeling for VR makes it your mind can handle it longer, but without knowing a certain day you will have heavy headache, I was like you in the beginning too, just denying the feeling and trying to accept it as good.
            I could not put any device on for several days.

            Just stay realistic, VR has its own pros and cons, as any device has, AR also has it’s cons and pros as for PC game.

            It will not replace all, as there are still a lot of pc gamers and console gamers, they did not all go to a pad device too.

            I don’t know where you got your R&D from but seems you just read some stuff and wnat to write your personal expierence, which is fine, just not the reality.

          • VR Cat

            I have a Virtuix Omni, so I speak from personal experience, not from second-hand accounts. I play as long as I like without discomfort, sickness or headaches. I am one of the few people in the world for now who can actually do that with untrammeled first person content. Yes, high end VR is expensive, but for those who can afford a gaming PC and an HTC Vive, adding a motion platform is not difficult, or can be saved up for quickly.

            What is high end VR now will become mainstream in a few years. There was a time when no-one had an electric dishwasher, a microwave oven, or a car. When these arrived on the scene they were considered unnecessary, expensive luxuries, even fads. But, naturally aspirational as we humans are, they are now commonplace. It’s normal to think change won’t happen, but it happens anyway.

            Whenever something new arrives that gives one person more entertainment, more convenience, or more time, everyone else has to have it, or else we feel disadvantaged and left behind. This is particularly true for first-world countries. Unfortunately in other parts of the world, people are still struggling just to survive.

          • AtmosContagion

            Makes some people sick…

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            Correct

          • AtmosContagion

            They work perfectly fine for everyone that I know and have shown VR…

        • DiGiCT Ltd

          Games in which you need to walk a lot are not VR friendly, they play just fine on standard pc

          • VR Cat

            I think they’re VR friendly. In fact, the prospect of walking around a lot was what got me excited about VR in the first place.

          • mellott124

            Exactly. Not everyone gets motion sickness. Understand why devs are being cautious but I want to be able to move around like I should. Thanks to Vorpx I still can right now in some applications. I don’t care for most of the current ways of moving in new vr games. Teleportation is one of the better but it breaks the immersion considerably.

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            Yes tp feels fine for most users and yes it breaks the immersion and focus all the time

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            The walking absolutely NOT, but seeing the worls in actual scale as it supposed to be did it for me as it feels you are realy part of the world itself.

        • Elliot Maldonado

          Well, I’m one who gets real sick using a controller. But out of curiosity I bought Edge of Nowhere yesterday which uses the XBox controller. This game is in third person mode that follows the character but doesn’t use the right locomotion button which is replaced by head movement. So far no motion sickness for me. It works real well. Although this game is lineal and not open world I believe adoption to this type of locomotion is satisfying to most sick prone players. Another option is the fixed camera method that Chronos uses which is a very comfortable and induces no motion sickness. So it’s going in the right direction.

        • Darthjaiz Gaming

          without the virtuix omni, I think the best a AAA game could get would be a hybrid of (Full Spectrum Warrior, Brothers in Arms Hells Highway) and controlling each person in the squad like Front Defense VR.

    • enjoyVR

      is Fall Out 4 enough? ;-)

    • Tim Calleja

      me too

  • VRDRUMMER

    VR -The games, the invention of, finding new ways to experiences..It will all come… Just give it time literally the 2016 year for ideas and projects and new ideas to arise. It not just Oculus, HTC, PlayStation investing and banking on VR.. It is many HMD hardware developers, software and studios..

  • Jonboy

    Its all up to the developers to make the games great. Regardless of tiny specs here and there. My money will be going to PS VR

  • bschuler

    Lol, reading prediction articles AFTER reveals are always funny. Can’t help but feel bad for Oculus a bit.. so much early hope and hype, dashed. But don’t despair, E3 is far from over.. there is still a very high probability for some amazing things besides just another lame platformer crammed into VR.