To be honest, I’ve been a bit reluctant about writing this article.
What I thought would turn into finger pointing actually became good news!
Most games on Steam are Indie
Did you know that 55% of the games on Steam classify as indie? VR games are actually slightly more popular among the indie crowd with the indie tag on 61% of VR games (these numbers polled directly from the Steam database on 10/1/2017.) If you start browsing through Steam, many indie developers don’t use an indie tag on their games (perhaps they don’t want to deal with stigma players may have against the word?) Commercial developers will stay far from the indie tag as well for fear of being crucified by the indie community. Therefore I believe it’s safe to say the amount of indie games on Steam is actually much greater.
Just because there are more indie VR games on Steam doesn’t exactly mean indie developers have saved VR. Moving VR into the spotlight actually jolted its progress ahead. In a part it’s thanks to massive advertising campaigns and creating various mediums for VR on smartphones, consoles, and PC.
None the less, I would like to define my claim that indie developers have restarted VR and kept it alive when bigger companies forced it mainstream. I’m claiming VR could have died out already yet will continue to evolve thanks to the indie crowd.
While VR isn’t exactly anything new, it was indie developers who got it popular again. (Palmer Luckey)
The Good VR games are Indie
Have a look at the chart below which shows the top 44 VR Steam games with the most players online. The results were pulled from steamdb.net at 2:00PM Pacific standard time 10/1/2017.
From this list you will notice 25 of these 44 games classify as indie and the other 16 are from slightly bigger companies (3 were not VR games at all). Only 3 company produced games were developed for virtual reality from the start. The other 16 games were not developed for solely for virtual reality (it is more so that they now “support” it.) These games can be used as a virtual monitor or on a regular PC monitor. The only company produced games in the top 44 designed for exclusive VR play are The Lab, Google Earth, and Google Tilt Brush.
…Don’t get too excited.
On the other hand, 16 of the 25 indie games were developed exclusively for VR Play
The Viveport store and Oculus store have a fair amount of games that may have made this list. However, as far as Steam games are concerned, the indie crowd has been the only strong support keeping VR gaming alive. (There is a small percentage of games in the Oculus store not on Steam. Nevertheless, most, if not all Viveport games are also on Steam. )
Do large companies care about virtual gaming?
Don’t you think it’s strange that these large companies are forking over so much money to fund the Vive and Occulus when there are no high demand games made for the system? Remember what happened to the Sega Dreamcast when Sega pushed performance over securing games for their system?
It died! (yea, this reference is getting a bit old, but it works)
Thanks to all the indie titles in the image above, I didn’t have to sell my VR system for scrap. What else would this gamer have done with it when there are no games? The “wow” factor of virtual reality is temporary and certainly can’t sustain itself for more than a few weeks.
Maybe it was worth the publicity for companies to slap their name on any VR hardware before their competition could, or maybe the gaming industry isn’t even on their minds at all. There isn’t much profit with VR gaming at this stage because not many people can afford the headset.
Indie developers continue pushing VR gaming to the next level.
Many people are laughing at the gravity free VR treadmills because they don’t work well yet, and Mashable already wrote it off as something that could never appeal to the masses. Still, it’s indie developers who haven’t given up on what VR could become in the future. If VR treadmills don’t appeal to the masses due to their limited application, certainly the full body VR immersion of the future will. Its a goal that has my applause.
2015 Virtuix Omni
Then again could Playstation ever release a VR treadmill that is not perfect? Wouldn’t all the critics rip the idea apart so bad that it would hurt their brand? Is this why larger companies don’t release many innovative prototypes?
So what does all this mean?
It’s great that Google, Valve, Microsoft, Samsung, and Playstation are creating all these new headsets. Thanks to the indie crowd creating so many games, I really doubt these larger companies will be able to suck VR dry before it reaches its potential. It was able to stay alive long enough for a few popular games like Fallout and Doom that will be released this December.
I don’t really think large companies should take any heat for this. An unprepared VR forced it’s way into the market. Its great news that indie developers were able to play such an important role in keeping it alive.
What might have happened if the media declared VR as failure before the cost came down?
I also don’t think many indie developers have realized there was such a huge opening in the market to get their foot in the door. More players will come as headsets become cheaper which could multiply any fan-group they can secure now.