To make Farpoint one of virtual-reality’s defining games, Sony believed it needed to make an equally defining controller.
Sony hopes the PlayStation VR Aim Controller will “become the standard-bearer for VR first-person controllers” by elevating the VR gaming experience.
“Obviously they’ve invested quite a lot of money into it. They’ve invested in a new peripheral and they’ve invested significant marketing dollars. Perhaps not necessarily looking for a profitable return on investment but they’re looking to gain and push further traction for their PlayStation VR headset” said Piers Harding-Rolls, Videogames Research Director for IHS Markit.
In Farpoint the player is stranded in a hostile alien environment searching for survivors of a crashed space station, in order to find a way back home.
Developed by Sony in partnership with indie developer Impulse Gear, Farpoint was built from the ground up for use with the Aim controller, Sony’s first PSVR peripheral targeting the first person shooter market, the biggest genre in the console space.
Now typically when you play a shooter in VR, you’re fighting off the enemy with some kind of gun, which obviously you can see in your headset.
But in the real world, what you’re actually holding, doesn’t match what you see in game—leading to a kind of disconnect.
Impulse Gear says the controller is light, and all of the controls are easily accessible – that you can “look down and your hands match up with what you’re seeing in game.”
One of the big debates in the video gaming industry at the moment is whether developers should be building games specifically for VR, or continuing to develop 2D games which have a VR option.
“I mean some games will not translate easily into a VR experience. The great example we’ve had recently is ‘Resident Evil 7.’ That as a VR title has been very well received. It’s a traditional game that you can play on a normal TV screen. But it’s also got a VR mode. And, y’know, anecdotal feedback of people experiencing that game is that it’s a sort of genre-defining experience. It takes a horror game to the next level, because it’s so immersive, and the experience is very engaging.” says Mr. Harding-Rolls.
Between its debut in January and the end of March, Resident Evil 7 shipped three-and-a-half million copies.
But Mr. Harding-Rolls says its development wasn’t an easy ride for Capcom:
“I think in general, the best practice is to take the approach you should be building from the ground up for VR. I know for a fact that ‘Resident Evil 7,’ when it was first shown, a lot of people found the experience quite disorientating and a little bit simulation sickness. So they worked very hard to actually translate and improve that experience so you don’t have that end result. And the hard works come off.”
Video gaming in virtual reality is a small market.
Since VR head-mounted-displays hit the consumer market last year, pick-up has been much slower than analysts projected.
And there still hasn’t been a standout hit.
“The smaller indie developers have actually seen an opportunity to get into the market first. The bigger publishers that have these established frameworks for testing risk and understanding risk and investment. Those companies have held back significantly.”