Virtual Reality was supposed to be the next big thing in video games as far back as the 1990s, but thus far every attempt to make it viable has been… not quite ready for prime time, to put it mildly. But with a serious push being given to platforms like The Oculus Rift, Playstation VR and Valve’s HTC Vive, many in the games industry believe that VR’s belated breakthrough with mainstream consumers could finally be at hand.
Now, Valve has debuted a new advertisement for the Steam VR-powered HTC Vive headset, which aims to pitch VR to a mainstream audience.
While Virtual Reality has always had a ready audience among technophiles and gadget lovers, plus an eager fanbase among game developers, the technology has struggled in the past to connect with consumers as a necessary upgrade from existing digital-interactivity platforms. The HTC Vive’s new ad campaign looks to reverse that, repackaging the often intimidating new technology as a fun family activity.
In the first half of the ad, various people are led into a green-screen set designed to let a real-time rendering feed show their companions how they “fit” into a virtual space; allowing both the present and TV audience to see them as player-characters dropped into a gaming space to perform tasks like shooting arrows, cooking food and interacting with animals and virtual machines. The various game modes make specific use of the Vive’s hand-held motion controllers, highlighting the diversity of the apps and games available to potential consumers – including the hotly-anticipated EVE: Valkyrie, also announced today.
Afterwards, the action shifts to families and groups of friends using the Vive in their own living-rooms, reinforcing a family and group-activity centric use for the platform – an interesting and perceptive decision, considering that one of the chief impediments to the success of VR as a consumer format has been the worry that it will only serve to increase the solitude and disconnect from real life that is already associated with immersive gaming experiences. In many respects, the campaign is similar to the famous “Wii Like To Play” ads that helped launch the Nintendo Wii in 2006; another product which aimed to bring groundbreaking new technology to a skeptical consumer audience.
It remains unclear what the future truly holds for VR, despite the heavy push it’s currently receiving. While many “hardcore” gamers and fans of all things tech appear to have been swayed that these new iterations of the concept have better legs than the non-starter variations that proliferated in the 90s mostly through arcades and traveling demonstrations; the games industry has already been feeling the effects of general consumers and so-called “casual” gamers migrating from increasingly expensive consoles to mobile platforms, leaving it unclear whether VR in and of itself can grow beyond its reputation as a novelty strictly for upscale buyers. However, the Vive is believed to be better positioned than many competing options due to its direct association with Steam, currently the most robust game-streaming service by far.