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

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