With Sony’s confirmation of an upgraded PS4 and Microsoft heavily rumored to be following suit, the importance of virtual reality to both companies’ fortunes appears to be growing. With PlayStation VR is set to launch in October, this E3 will be the first time Sony goes all out in pushing its headset. But VR news is going to popping up all over the show, from Xbox to third parties. Here’s a quick rundown of what we expect to see next week.
Microsoft announces Xbox One initiative with Oculus
When the Oculus Rift launched in March, it came with an Xbox One controller. Inauspicious, since Microsoft has recently been talking up the idea of merging the Xbox ecosystem with Windows 10, so some kind of partnership with the best known PC VR outfit isn’t that surprising. It probably doesn’t end there, though.
Microsoft’s E3 conference is happening next Monday, and it would be the perfect time to announce a full-fledged partnership with Oculus to bring VR to the Xbox One. This could theoretically serve to cut into Sony’s as-of-yet unchecked “lead” in console VR – thus far only theoretical, since VR is a hard sell to general consumers in any capacity – while also strengthening the probably validity of rumors over the upgraded Xbox console, codenamed Scorpio, more than likely recommended to really run resource-heavy VR applications.
It’s unlikely that any partnership with Oculus wouldn’t run on standard Xbox hardware either – doing so would be a mistake, since PSVR will run on both of Sony’s consoles – but in order for Oculus support to be effective, you need a killer app like, say, Halo (not to mention figuring out how to integrate Oculus Touch, since Microsoft lacks a peripheral like the PSVR’s Move). Whatever the case, it’s likely that whatever Hololens attention will be somewhat sidelined for this.
New VR titles from Ubisoft, EA, possibly Capcom and other third-parties
Third-parties not going to sit on the sidelines for VR, either. Ubisoft has already previously announced two games, the possibly Assassins Creed-related Eagle Flight and Werewolves Within, a VR party game similar to the classic card game Werewolf, and will be bringing two more unannounced titles as well. What these are is anyone’s guess, an AC spinoff, Far Cry or Rabbids doesn’t seem too far beyond the realm of possibility.
EA will probably show off some VR titles, plural, of their own, leading the charge with Star Wars Battlefront VR, which was previously announced (but not shown) at a Sony event at GDC earlier this year. It seems unlikely that they would stop there, considering series like Battlefield, Need for Speed or possibly even Mass Effect could be interesting prospects for virtual reality, let alone new IP that could be in development.
While the official list of developers for PlayStation VR was over 200 as of March – a number which has probably grown since – Capcom is among the companies I expect will make some sort of showing, given the existence of their popular horror tech demo from last year’s E3, Kitchen. Kitchen was developed by the Resident Evil team, and with the absence of PT still a sore subject for many horror fans, this year would be a great time to bring something new to the virtual table in a genre that has yet to find a high-profile project.
Out of the other developers working on projects for PSVR – among them Konami, Grasshopper, Ninja Theory, Square Enix, Oddworld Inhabitants and yes, even FromSoftware – it wouldn’t be unusual to see some surprise announcements as well, possibly for more than just Sony’s headset.
Sony maintains lead by announcing a ton of new VR games, including some high-profile spin-offs
With PSVR launching in October, virtual reality will undoubtedly make up a sizeable part of the PlayStation press conference on Monday. Aside from the known PSVR titles – already quite a diverse showing, and many of which will be playable for the first time during the show – Sony will introduce a number of new games, some of which might be added to the launch line-up (or at least the launch window).
Surprises from a first-party developer like, say, Santa Monica Studios shouldn’t be ruled out, whether taking the form of God of War, a co-development partnership with Journey developer ThatGameCompany or something entirely new. A new spin-off of a series with an organic fit like Killzone isn’t out of the question either, but like Microsoft, Sony needs a killer app. It would be shortsighted of them to not have at least a couple up their sleeve. (I wouldn’t hold my breath for a VR Uncharted though, at least not yet). New IP may be the strongest showing here – Sony will want to present as wide of a range of VR experiences as possible for players in the lead-up to their headset’s release.
Third-party support is often the lynchpin that catapults Sony into “wins” during the presser war year after year (see last year’s triple announcement of Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue III). An announcement for an exclusive new FromSoftware PSVR title would really knock it out of the park, going a long way toward cementing the headset as a real must-buy contender. Still, it’s anyone’s guess if whatever From working on is ready to show off. PSVR-exclusive spin-offs or even modes for upcoming games would be a great way to maintain a solid lead over Microsoft. In any case, Sony’s not going to let their last showing of PSVR before it hits retail pass without a lot of major news. Expect them to come out swinging.
Oculus, Vive and the rest
With Oculus’ booth presence confirmed on the E3 show floor and a partnership with Microsoft likely, the company will probably serve as a second showcase for Xbox titles, as well as offering a closer look and more info about their Touch motion controllers. HTC Vive, Oculus’s biggest competition, is also reportedly going to be at the show, though their existence and lineup seems much quieter, apart from a mixed-reality demo of Valve’s already-released Portal spinoff The Lab. Samsung could take E3 to debut a new version of their Gear VR mobile headset, though any news here will be loudly overshadowed by the console developments.