LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In
2013, Oculus VR's booth at Electronic Entertainment
Expo, the gaming industry's biggest annual convention,
was relegated to a far corner of the showfloor near the
What a difference a year makes. At the 2014 expo this week, the
startup, which Facebook bought in March for $2 billion, drew crowds
of oglers for its latest virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift.
The change is a sign of the rising interest in virtual reality
platforms among publishers and developers, who hope the years-old
technology -- which creates a 360-degree view that immerses players
in fantasy settings -- can finally become a viable platform to
reverse shrinking video game industry revenues and draw a new
generation of users.
Whether gamers will buy into that remains to be seen, but Facebookís
big bet has jolted gaming companies into action.
At the expo, known as E3, Sony let gamers try out its virtual
reality headset, Project Morpheus, and teased them with experiences
such as zipping down a highway on a luge. Electronic Arts has
dedicated research teams to explore virtual reality, even beyond
headsets. Yves Guillemot, chief executive of French video game
publisher Ubisoft, told Reuters his company is working on a virtual
reality experience that's "coming soon."
The chief executive of Oculus, Brendan Iribe, has gone on a hiring
spree for engineers, designers and developers to fine-tune the
technology, develop games in-house, and convince others to make
"Itís just the beginning. Weíre all learning and making a lot of
mistakes along the way," Iribe said at the expo.
Some developers say the Rift headset has undergone improvements in
display technology in the past six months and is inching closer to
overcoming perennial obstacles to mainstream adoption:
nausea-inducing motion-blur, uncomfortably grainy displays and sheer
"I have rarely seen this kind of very ground-up, groundswell of
developer support," said Andrew House, group CEO of Sony Computer
Entertainment. "Maybe its time has come."
Oculus and Sony are expected to begin selling their devices next
year, but content remains scarce. At E3, Playful Corp debuted
adventure game "Lucky's Tale" and CCP Games presented space combat
Technology companies struggle to entice developers to create content
to drive a new platform. Developers tend to balk if the technology
"Itís a vicious cycle thatís hard to break unless someone spends a
lot of money on a lot of content," Wedbush Securities analyst
Michael Pachter said. "I would bet on Oculus because Facebookís got
Consulting firm KZero Worldswide projects revenue from virtual
reality hardware and software of $90 million in 2014, and over $2
billion in 2015. Others urge caution.
"I have a belief in VR but Iím not 100 percent sold that we are
ready today," said Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson.
Still, initial consumer interest is high. Hundreds of gamers lined
up at E3 to the Oculus Rift, squirming and screeching along to
Sega's horror sci-fi game "Alien:Isolation."
"It was definitely a cool technology, but it was a little bit
disorienting at first," said California gamer and programmer Michael
de la Pena. "Iím a little bit sensitive to motion."
(Reporting by Malathi Nayak; Editing by Leslie Adler)