Why Fallout 4 VR is the most important game of E3 2017

Amidst all the excitement about a new Mario game and the most powerful console ever, Fallout 4 VR's October release date is the most important news to come out of E3 this year. Not because it’s a fancy new Fallout title, because it’s still the same game we’ve come to know and love at its core, and not because it has a ton of social buzz around it, because it doesn't really. The reason it's a huge announcement is because it’s the first game to offer a massive open world experience with 100s of hours of gameplay entirely in virtual reality.

It’s a monumental achievement for VR as an industry. It marks the first time a triple A company has made a concentrated effort to adapt one of their landmark titles to virtual reality, beyond just making it possible to look around using a VR headset.

It’s a world first, and it will be a historic moment for the future of gaming.

Adapt, Survive, Thrive

We’ve seen a number of big name developers dip their toes into the fertile virtual reality soil – Ubisoft, Crytek, EA, and of course Bethesda among them – but Fallout 4 VR represents more than just a dip. It represents the first major expedition into uncharted land, the first time a big-name developer has created a high-end VR experience that’s comparable in content and application to the triple A titles of today.

In fact, if everything Bethesda’s shown so far is to be believed, it’s virtually the exact same game as Fallout 4, except with all the benefits of VR,  included increased immersion and a sense of realism as you make your through the Commonwealth. As if that wasn’t attractive enough, Bethesda seems to be focused on properly adapting Fallout 4 to VR conventions like motion controls, room scale environments, your choice of locomotion options, and pretty much everything else you would expect out of a quality VR game – now with 1000 percent more Fallout 4.

The most potent pitfalls for VR headsets these days are their cost and the relatively small library of longer titles available for players. There are lots of short experiences that are fun to visit, beat like a dead horse, and then abandon, but there are few that extend longer than 10-12 hours, and many of those that do are primarily the result of multiplayer components involving arena-based cooperative or competitive gameplay. These games are still a blast, but they’re far from the kind of experience people have come to expect when they drop 30-60 dollars on a game.

Anyone that’s ever spent a significant amount of time under the hood of an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive knows that if the platform is going to survive it needs a library of longer content to appeal to consumers that are more value driven than your average tech enthusiasts. It needs games that offer a middle ground between the unique experience of an HTC Vive and the hundreds of hours of content most players expect out of a $60 game. On top of that, these games need to pay careful attention to the user base at large, and take advantage of all the bells and whistles necessary to make players comfortable for extended gameplay sessions. This means teleportation, traditional locomotion, slide effects, and the ability to swap through each method depending on the personal comfort level of the player.

Fallout 4 VR is bringing all of these toys to the party, and coupling them with the acclaimed gameplay experience players fell in love with when the title first launched. As a result, you can bet that anyone and everyone that owns a VR headset is likely to buy the VR version of a game they probably already own just for a chance to finally experience a longer, more detailed VR game from a triple A company. Add in the fact that Fallout 4 already has an active modding community willing to spend the time to create massive new quests, mechanics, and fix glaring issues with the title, and you’ve got the perfect game to adapt to virtual reality for the masses.

It’s something to be excited for, even if you don’t have a VR headset now, because it’s a sign of what’s to come.

What’s to Come

Fallout 4 VR is also significant because it’s fundamentally a proof of concept. It shows that even massive worlds like the Commonwealth can be ported to VR, and you can almost guarantee that every other developer out there is watching what Bethesda is doing like a hawk, gauging what profit they can expect out of making more traditional titles on their roster fit a VR environment, and if there’s value in creating full-length VR games.

If it’s successful, you can bet your sweet mirelurks that other developers will either work to adapt their own titles to VR, or make it a standard piece of post-launch content. As VR continues to grow, it’s inevitable. It’s an opportunity to reach a whole new audience, recycle and rebrand already completed content, and get experience working to create quality VR experiences without the pressure of a full-blown VR-only release.

Bethesda may be the first, but they’re definitely not going to be the last, and as VR grows we’re going to see more developers take the leap in one form or the other, likely using Bethesda as a model. 

Can you imagine Far Cry 5 in VR? Or, more likely, Metro Exodus? We already know 4A and Ubisoft alike are committed to VR as an industry. Between Arktika.1 and Ubisoft’s Eagle Flight, both companies have experience and more than a few talented VR devs on their roster, and we can expect to see them rolling out even more VR titles in the future. Reviving their most popular franchises with a VR experience seems like the next logical step.

The Mario of VR

Although it seems like a rough metaphor, AMD’s Corporate Vice President recently said, “Fallout 4 VR will be a title that changes the industry," going as far as to call it “the Mario, the Sonic the Hedgehog” of the VR industry.

Of course, we know that Fallout 4 is radically different from the adventures of the lovable Italian plumber from Nintendo; the point is that Mario games revolutionized, and in some ways continue to revolutionize, the way we think about gaming. As mentioned on stage as part of EA's E3 event, industry experts expect the next five years to bring more changes to interactive entertainment than we have seen in the past 45 years. And VR will be one of the major drivers of this total revolution in gaming. 

When Fallout 4 VR releases this October, gaming will change forever. Fallout 4 VR will become a landmark title for virtual reality, offering a massive VR experience to an audience that’s starved for content, paving the way, creating new standards, and adding fuel to the fire for a budding industry. Even if you’re not a fan of Fallout 4, Fallout 4 VR is going to be worth playing, not just because it’s soon to be a part of gaming history, but because it’s going to be the first VR title to even come close to this size, scope, and scale.

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