The virtual reality
Slush, Helsinki’s startup extravaganza, sees industry doyens confront some uncomfortable truths about VR
Standing in an arena where lasers are fired across the ceiling for no other reason than because the showrunners can, it’s easy to believe that every new venture and fresh technology showcased to attendees at Slush is destined to make it big. Games were just one part of the Swedish show’s sizeable apparatus, but prominent across the sweep of the twoday event was the subject of VR.
“I’m usually very sceptical about gaming peripherals, because I think they’re mostly shit,” said Unity founder and former CEO David Helgason, speaking on one of Slush’s stages. “Everybody is going crazy over VR, and ‘crazy’ is the operative word here. I recently spoke to a VC firm and they told me ten per cent of all the deals they invite are VR deals – that’s not just game deals, but all of the deals they invite.”
Unity intends to support all VR platforms. But while the atmosphere at Slush may induce a credulous state, there was still a definite air of companies feeling the need to sell VR. While almost everyone by now acknowledges that VR is coming whether consumers want it or not, the fear appears to be that the dev community just isn’t ready for it yet.
“If you’re already developing for VR right now, chances are you’re probably doing it wrong,” Helgason said. “VR is going to be one of the main attraction modes in the near future. It’ll be a core experience for most people, and it’s going to help change the world.”
As part of his own attract sequence, Helgason spoke of VR opening up the globe to people, claiming that the population’s incessant desire to travel and see the world’s greatest wonders is killing the planet. “We can’t all go to Mount Everest – we’d destroy it. So instead we’ll create it as a VR experience. Eventually, we’ll have to spend a significant amount of time in VR to have full lives.”
Helgason spoke of VR going mainstream as if it were an inevitability, but even in his proselytising, he noted that backing it in the hopes of capitalising on early enthusiasm is no short-term bet for creatives: “You’re going to need funding for two to four years [to develop for VR]. It’s going to be hard to survive the first devices that come out. because some will definitely fail, so you’ll need the funding to get to the goal when it arrives.” The wider entertainment industry is also scrabbling around for other uses that justify technology that, very soon, will be sitting on shop shelves around the world. “I know one thing that will happen with VR for sure – eSports,” said Wargaming CEO Victor Kislyi. “Think about it logically. With a football match, only a few people actually play the game on the field, while millions of people watch it on the TV, drinking beer, consuming popcorn and so on. That’s how it’s monetised. VR will become the headset to watch eSports, and you’ll be able to be inside the battle itself, with good commentators and full camera control. This is happening. Believe me, this is happening.”
According to Carl-Arvid Ewerbring, co-founder of Resolution Games, there are opportunities for mobile devs, too, “Mobile has created millions of gamers, and if they want to go to the next step, then that next step is VR.” Yet speaking on
“If you’re already developing for VR right now, chances are you’re probably doing it wrong”
Wargaming CEO Victor Kislyi; Jens Begemann, CEO of Wooga