It was a busy week for the video game industry.
Thousands of industry insiders gathered in San Francisco for the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC), a tech-centric event focused on those who create our beloved games. A few big announcements were also made outside of GDC.
My scholarly pursuits and various scribe assignments kept my feet firmly in Fresno this week, but I have been following the steady stream of news coming out of the Bay Area. Here are the most interesting developments.
Virtual reality is coming in force
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that half of the news flooding from GDC was in some way related to virtual reality.
The technology weathermen are predicting an absolute flood of home VR kits in 2016. Most major hardware companies like Microsoft and Sony are developing VR headsets or glasses. Some major game publishers like Ubisoft are exploring VR software.
However, Oculus VR is clearly the company to watch. Not only is the company at the forefront of headset development, but it partnered with Samsung to bring VR to the mobile arena. Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion last year, and chairman Mark Zuckerberg is already salivating over advertising and branding opportunities. Mix all that up, and it’s clear we will all be characters in a world the Spike Jonze‘s film “Her” in no time.
Virtual reality sickness is a real concern
I was overjoyed to hear that VR companies are paying serious attentions to concerns over gaming sessions that make people feel sick.
This is purely selfish. I get horrible motion sickness. My dad and I went to Universal Studios Hollywood last year, and I was about five seconds away from tossing my cookies on that infernal “Transformers” ride. If this is where the industry is headed, I am glad companies are looking to help out the people who always have to sit in the front seat on road trips.
If they can’t fix it, I may need a new hobby. Can anyone teach me how to make pottery?
We are getting a new “Rock Band”
Harmonix, developer of both the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises, announced March 5 that we will get “Rock Band 4” for the current generation of systems by the end of the year.
The timing is perfect. Many people have been clamoring for a sequel since “Rock Band 3” debuted in 2010, and now they will have it. I overloaded so heavily on the first few waves of music games that I totally burned out, but the break has been just long enough to allow that hunger to swell inside me.
Dibs on guitar.
“Wasteland 2” will release on Xbox One and PS4
This announcement flew a little under the radar, but it is a huge deal for fans of classic role-playing games.
Brian Fargo, a highly respected RPG developer and one of the architects of the Fallout series, used Kickstarter to fund a fantastic game. I spent around 70 hours playing “Wasteland 2” for my review of the PC version. I’m confident it will blow away anyone who loves turn-based combat or open-ended gameplay.
People tell me Fargo’s original “Wasteland,” released for the Apple II in 1987, was also good. I was not alive, so I have to take their word for it.
Sony releases sales figures
Sony came right out with a flat number: 20.2 million PlayStation 4 consoles sold as of March 1.
Microsoft and Nintendo like to float weird statistics like “number of retail units shipped” or “consoles produced.” Microsoft and Nintendo haven’t released any concrete sales numbers in awhile.
Good for you, Sony. Give us clean numbers. Drop the mic. Move on to the next item on the agenda.
Microsoft pushes cross-platform play
Not to be outdone, Microsoft spoke to its own strengths.
The company announced its continued focus on cross-platfrom play — the ability for Xbox One, PC and Microsoft phone users to compete and interact with one another. I’ve always thought this was a no-brainer for Microsoft. It has a foothold in the three major gaming markets: mobile, PC and consoles.
If every Xbox One and PC game shared a player base, it would be a major coup for Microsoft.
“Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” will conclude the series
Metal Gear series creator Hideo Kojima told IGN that the latest entry, “The Phantom Pain,” will be the last in the core series.
Kojima has said that like 19 times in the last decade, but I hope he means it this time. Single-player franchises centered around the same basic narrative and characters have a shelf life, and this series has more than surpassed it. It’s time to release one last killer game this September and ride off into the sunset.