FRONT COVER COVER FRONT MCV 916 THE VR ISSUE 05.05.17
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DESIGN / BRANDING / VISUAL IDENTITY / ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN STRATEGY / PACKAGING / POS MOTION / WEB, MOBILE DEVELOPMENT DIGITAL CAMPAIGN DELIVERY / USER EXPERIENCE
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Peripherals and VR issue
Virtual Reality Check
We talk to Oculus, HTC and Sony about VR’s ﬁrst year on the market
How SCUF won eSports
We talk to CEO Duncan Ironmonger about Scuf’s controller revolution
VR: The Final Frontier
Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a huge VR release and will fulﬁl many long-held Trek fantasies
The top peripherals ﬁrms
A rundown of the biggest and best peripherals ﬁrms and their best products
Page 5 The Editor • Page 6 On the Radar - the next 2 weeks • Page 9 Opinion • Page 24 VR’s Money Puzzle • Page 41 Q1 sales analysis • Page 42 Big Game releases • Page 48 End Game - community and events MCV 916 MAY 5 | 3
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“Peripheral manufacturers are building communities.”
TheEditor Killer accessories Gaming peripherals once had a pretty ropey reputation. Third-party controllers were sold on the simple merit of being cheaper than the platform-holder’s own, often with ta ke on eatures like autoﬁre hile a ons or onsoles usually aile an o ten signalled the parent device’s imminent demise: Jaguar CD, 32X or 64DD for example. Moving along to the present and the once-humble peripheral is no longer a se on ary onsi eration ith su h amin a essories helpin to eﬁne this era’s entire gaming experience. Some VR enthusiasts may balk at such devices being called peripherals, and they would have a point. The VR headset is a key example of how any such additional e i e hile bein peripheral to a onsole or is also e e ti ely its o n plat orm with all the possibilities and problems that entails. The huge enthusiasm for VR in the industry, and beyond the industry too, has driven the ne te hnolo y throu h its ﬁrst year as a onsumer pro u t he install base is still relatively small, but the opportunities for innovation are so great that developers are keen to explore them; incentivised, no doubt, by the wads of cash that the likes of Oculus and HTC are investing in content. Elsewhere the humble peripheral has found itself at the very heart of the eSports revolution. Whether it’s a high-end competitive controller, an ultra-responsive mouse an keyboar a amin hea set or a ﬁ htin ame sti k he tools o the tra e are essential to a high level of play, and a key part of the identity of all competitive games. Peripheral manufacturers are building communities around their products, engaging with their users and sponsoring their heroes – in exactly the same way that Nike and Adidas engage with sports fans and enthusiasts. In this issue we celebrate gaming peripherals in all their guises. We look at how far VR has come in the last year and where it’s headed in 2017; plus talk about its latest, greatest release in Star Trek: Bridge Crew. We talk to Scuf Gaming, the console controller of choice for eSports pros; and we look at the biggest players in peripherals and accessories in the UK. Seth Barton firstname.lastname@example.org
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Women in Games Awards 2017 May 19th 2017, Cavendish Conference Centre, London o in its thir e ition MCV e elop and e ports ro’s omen in ames ar s ill be returnin this ay to elebrate the plethora o emale talent in the ames in ustry a ross ei ht in i i ual a ar s he ate ories or in lu e e e elopment alent reati e mpa t Risin tar usiness oman o the ear areer entor e ports onten er utstan in ontribution an reakthrou h alent pon sore by kie it h Ro io ar ark i t an nsert oin the omen in ames ar s is set to be one o the hi hli hts o the year Apply for free tickets at www.nbmevents.uk/womeningames
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May 6th-7th, London and Glasgow
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Human Fall Flat lands on consoles
May 9th / May 12th
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StandUp for GamesAid
May 8th, The Comedy Store, London
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arpoint shoots onto VR
MCM Comic Con London May 26th-28th, Excel London
he omi on returns to el on on at the en o this month to elebrate the ery best o mo ern pop ulture s al ays there ill be osplay omi s i eo ames mer han ise an e ports in ol e e eral spe ial uests are appearin o er the ourse o the eeken in lu in ok mon voice actress Veronica aylor Ro ue ne a tor onnie en tar rek’s Nichelle Nichols and ustin o ers’ Verne royer he o s ast ill also be hol in an e lusi e li e ame sho alle o s rek on ay th Visit www.mcmcomiccon.com/london for more details
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Alex Verrey - CEO, Little Big PR
he gaming industry has been good to me. In fact, many fighting game pros use a controller instead of a it’s all I’ve known. I left school to present a series Fightstick? Don’t even get me started on optical mice, of video game shows and somehow segued into mechanical keyboards and gaming surfaces! gaming PR. I’m still here now and continue to All areas of our industry should embrace quality – insist be fascinated with how our business changes daily and on it, in fact. One of our clients, LucidSound, was founded somehow stays the same. by the team who developed the Tritton audio brand before Hardware has been my speciality throughout my career. selling to Mad Catz (God rest her soul). These guys develop I’ve been PR’ing the living shit out of gaming peripherals, gaming headsets made for the modern gamer. No flashing accessories and headsets for over 17 years. Sure, I’ve worked lights, no silly made-up tech, no sci-fi aesthetic: just on games, plenty of them, but I know my HOTAS from my beautiful design, innovative features and great audio. HAT switch better than most, and have seen it all in my Recently, I was chatting with a buyer who told me they time peddling plastic for a living. really loved the product but suggested we attract the ‘kids’ It’s an interesting time by slashing the price. They We should have faith in our business went onto say it would be a for gaming peripherals. In the days of the SNES and and market a game for a fair price. great idea to make a cheap even the PlayStation One, version. Replace the metal the industry was like the wild west. Controllers, steering frame with a plastic one, rip out the speakers and put wheels, memory cards, there was plenty to keep a hardware something cheaper in, and push it all out for half the price. company busy and lots of opportunities to turn a quick I smiled politely and changed the subject. buck. Development was swift, there were very few lockouts The race to the bottom is never a great idea. It cheapens and as gamer expectations were low, even products of the brand and leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the questionable quality could sell millions of units. gamer. No one has ever regretted buying quality. We should Oh, how times have changed. have faith in our business and market a game, or gaming Gaming’s grown up and is all the better for it. These product, for a fair price. Stop discounting so quickly and days, on console at least, the point of entry is much steeper. have a little faith in your audience. Controllers need licensing from first party, memory cards In my experience, gamers will pay a little more for no longer exist, light guns and cheap steering wheels have quality, for something that will enhance their gaming fallen out of favour and the technology involved just to experience. We need to realise that giving products away bring a product to market is an obvious barrier of entry for for well below their worth, or cutting corners via shoddy all but the most dedicated manufacturers. workmanship can only end badly for us all. I, for one, embrace the shift, and innovation in hardware Here’s to those who appreciate quality and to those is still alive and thriving. Just look at the success Microsoft prepared to pay a fair price for a fair product. Long may has recently enjoyed with the Elite controller, and how they thrive and continue to spread the word.
Alex Verrey started his own gaming PR agency Big Boy PR after spending nearly two decades in-house at various peripheral companies. He has now co-founded a new PR agency serving the gaming industry by the name of Little Big PR. He can be reached at email@example.com MCV 916 May 5 | 09
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Jem Alexander - Editor, Develop
No escape from out-of-home VR
ultimate at-home virtual reality experience. Although it will scape rooms are exploding all over London. The be a long way from the Holodeck for some years, and may rooms themselves aren’t literally exploding, of be much more limiting than some anticipated when they course, but I’ve noticed frankly ridiculous growth were sold the VR dream. in the market in cities all over the world. It seems But these limitations in the home actually create that being locked in a room with a group of friends and opportunities, not only for escape room owners but for attempting to solve the puzzles inside to win your freedom game developers as well. Speaking to several escape room has universal appeal. designers, interest in experimenting with VR seems very Being a game set in meat-space, with no digital high. The technology will allow them to fully immerse component (indeed, many of these rooms require you players in their worlds in ways where a decorated set might to leave your phones and other devices outside the play fall short. It’s essentially the jump from theatre to cinema. space), they’re distinctly separate from the broader games Suddenly escape room owners are creating virtual business. However, these experiences are still very much worlds, something which related to video games, forged comes with its own unique as they were in the fires of It’s likely we’ll come full circle, with set of restrictions and foibles. Flash gaming. Crimson Room, there’s an entire the first example of the genre, escape rooms delving into digital. Luckily, industry full of skilled and is responsible for what is now knowledgeable designers, a rapidly growing real-world coders and artists with the necessary experience to create business. Not bad for a wee Flash game that plonked players in an empty room with nothing but their own these interactive digital environments. At which point escape rooms, and out-of-home VR curiosity and a locked door. experiences in general, very much become part of the video And it’s highly likely we’ll come full circle, with escape games industry. Game developers will help build them, rooms delving back into the digital world, thanks to funneling decades of expertise into this new medium, and an expected explosion in out-of-home virtual reality attractions. VR in the home is proving to be fiddly at then the crossovers will come. There’s already been a (nonVR) Resident Evil escape room, but that’s just a taste of best, and impractical at worst. For the Vive and Oculus, a dedicated VR play space is necessary to fully enjoy what we could see in the coming years. The ultimate dream is that this heralds the rebirth of the the experience and many people simply don’t have the room. The technology’s youth means costs are high and arcades. A space where games aren’t sold as products, but compelling content is rare. as experiences. Judging from continued growth enjoyed by This will change and the industry will adapt to these escape rooms, there’s a pretty penny to be made, especially constraints, figuring out a set of best practices for the once passionate, hardcore gamers catch wind of it.
Jem Alexander has been in the games industry for ten years, stuck in a perpetual leap frog between journalism, publisher marketing and development. Previous homes include Square Enix, Sony PlayStation, Riot Games and Six to Start 10 | May 5 MCV 916
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Jason Kingsley - CEO & Co-Founder, Rebellion Games
In the zone: lessons from VR
On a screen it’s fine – you tilt the horizon and it’s still oing VR for Battlezone, we learnt a lot of things on a fixed screen, so your brain can use all the different – some things we were doing right, but mainly components of the landscape around you to fix you in things we were doing wrong. And, surprisingly, space. The reason we get seasick is because the world a lot of that fed back into the knowledge I is moving and we are not, and most of us aren’t really picked up studying Zoology at university. equipped to deal with that. The key point about VR is that it’s trying to fool your The side effects of VR follow a normal distribution brain into being somewhere, but the brain is very good at curve. There are those who won’t be sick whatever you knowing your arm is in a certain position. In VR, if you do, they are the potential fighter pilots of the world, but can’t see your arm there it creates a dissonance in the brain. there’s not that many of them. Then there are people who Now dissonance in the brain of early hominids was just won’t cope at all with the current technology. The mass probably caused by bad food, and if you have bad food market is all those people in the middle. you need to throw it up – and quickly. So if your senses You can get used to VR, you get your VR legs so to are giving you funny signals from the world, there’s a speak, just like people get good chance you’ve chowed If you tilt the horizon artiﬁcally, your their sea legs. But that down on a bad hyena, and caused problems in you’d better get it out before it stomach is back in bad hyena land. actually QA. We found we’d have to does any more harm to you. rest our QA team from VR, as the brain is incredibly good Unfortunately, VR can trigger the same response, though at coping and adapting to things that are wrong, and QA on the bright side, we don’t have to eat hyenas any more. brains, which are spending a lot of time in VR, are just as We’re used to the horizon being a completely fixed point. Because we’re bipedal, the horizon is your reference point susceptible. So then someone else comes along and tries it, and tears the headset off straight away. for staying upright. So even if you tilt your head to one side, So we had to work out different ways of rotating the the horizon remains fixed in your mind. So what we learnt QA department by getting fresh people in. We basically very quickly in VR is that if you tilt the horizon artificially had a queue of people lined up to try a mouthful of bad and your head isn’t actually tilted, it causes a problem in your processing – and your stomach is back in bad hyena land. hyena, just to make sure the others hadn’t simply built up a So in Battlezone, we kept the horizon locked and tilted tolerance to it. We’re still learning more about VR, and we’re doing the cockpit instead, though people don’t notice it’s doing that. We don’t tilt the world, even though it looks like we Battlezone on other formats soon. I’d like to do more VR do, as the landscape around you is tilting. You can notice games in the future, though we have nothing to announce this if you go back and play the game now, but it’s largely now, as there’s just so much more to learn about this invisible unless you’ve been told. immersive new technology.
Jason Kingsley, OBE, is the co-founder and CEO of Rebellion, a chair of TIGA and a trustee of the Royal Armouries. He breeds, trains and rides horses, and jousts in a reproduction 15th Century Milanese harness. You can find him @RebellionJason MCV 916 May 5 | 11
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better, stronger, faster. Third-party controllers have always sat in the shade of the platform holderâ€™s own devices, but Scuf Gaming broke the mould and now stands at the pinnacle of competitive gaming. Seth Barton finds out how
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hen Usain Bolt lined up for the Rio Olympics 100m final, he was wearing Puma spikes. Other athletes in the final were also relying on Puma, but also Nike, Adidas and New Balance, with no single brand dominating the field – either through commercial clout or superior technology. Compare that to the 2016 Call of Duty Championship. There, the top four teams, and all 16 players on those teams, relied upon a single brand of controller. That brand was Scuf Gaming. Scuf has no effective competition when it comes to console eSports, having been established as the brand of choice by the vast majority of professional players; players who win 97 per cent of all major competitions, according to Scuf. Oh, and before you bring up Microsoft’s Xbox One Elite Controller, that’s also built upon intellectual property licensed from Scuf. To find out how the company became so dominant in its field, we talked to CEO, chairman and co-founder at Scuf Gaming, Duncan Ironmonger. A brit who’s now based in the US.
finishes, grip designs and reshaping the controllers for greater comfort. “If you look at what we did over the last six years, we effectively created a new market space, for what we call customised, professional-grade games controllers. From a functional level, that’s where we really put our focus – how can you improve hand use, reduce latency in different controls, improve comfort, but just really make the experience richer and bring the controller up to modern day requirements of playing video games.” GRASSROOTS GROWTH Scuf was started back in 2011 when Ironmonger, along with co-founder Simon Burgess (now retired from the company) tried to get the fledgling idea off the ground. “Those paddles were effectively the very beginning, we had no funding or anything, just my money and Simon’s. We made this thing from nothing, a true grassroots business that started from the back of a garage,” Ironmonger recalls. Today, a product such as Scuf would likely be crowdfunded, but the concept wasn’t widespread back in 2011, so they went it alone. “We basically bootlegged it at the beginning, we’d take the controller apart, drill a few holes in it, put some microswitches in and then put the paddles on, put some bolts in the triggers to give you the trigger stop. We did rudimentary things, but they were functionally very rich and they worked. And that was the business.” There was a problem, though, the controllers were (and still are) hand-built modifications of the platform-holder’s original. More a car that has been stripped out and heavily modified for racing, rather than simply a sportier model straight from the dealer. That meant buying the controller and throwing a lot of it away before replacing those bits with upgraded parts based on the customer’s specific needs. And that made it expensive. Very expensive. “We have to buy the standard controller, because that’s our starting point. We were able to buy the controllers at a preferential rate compared to someone buying them in a shop. But as the internet’s evolved, that margin has been totally cut out and now there’s a very small margin on consumer electronics within the retail space. “Then I’ve got labour and the materials and I’ve got to make a margin to make the business worthwhile for all the other things we’ve spent. The price point that we charged was kind of double to treble what a normal controller was, purely to the fact that we’re hand-making these, to specification.”
We created a new market space for customised, professional controllers.
BUILDING A BETTER CONTROLLER The history of Scuf is closely related to a technique known as ‘the claw’, which was key to succeeding at a pro level. The claw involves wrapping your right index finger up and over the top of the controller; it’s awkward and uncomfortable, but it lets you press the face buttons without taking your thumb off the right analogue stick. That gives you a distinct advantage in a sport where milliseconds matter. “When we started six years ago, we came up with a way of utilising more of your hands – we invented the paddles,” explains Ironmonger. The paddles replicate the face buttons, but are positioned under the controller, where your fingers naturally sit. You can then jump, reload, crouch or switch weapons quickly, and without any undue strain on your hands. “At Scuf, we were meeting a demand for people who understood that using more of your hand makes sense. Consider a keyboard. Using two thumbs and two fingers is nowhere near as efficient as touch typing,” Ironmonger argues persuasively. “There’s some pretty complex games out there [now] with twenty plus functions. It’s ineffective to just use two fingers and two thumbs,” he states. But the paddles were just the beginning for Scuf, which has continued to innovate. Hair triggers and trigger stops for faster shooting, analogue sticks in varying heights and
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Above: Duncan Ironmonger is co-founder, CEO and very much the face of Scuf Gaming
Below: Owners can make numerous user modifications, changing sticks and triggers for instance
With the complexity and price of controllers having steadily risen over the years, that meant a customised Xbox 360 Scuf controller could set you back £120. In a market where third-party controllers only ever undercut the platform holder’s device, that was revolutionary, at least on console. “If you look at top-tier headsets, such as Astro, they’re charging £200 for a high-end headset. This is a high-end controller, so we have to create a market where people accept that the value of the functionality is worth paying the extra money for, and that’s exactly what we did.” GUERILLA WARFARE Modern thinking, especially in the games space, says you can launch your product from your bedroom via social media. But the Scuf controller isn’t a digital product. You have to use one in order to appreciate the difference. “The first thing was get the word out there, let people know that Scuf exists, and that was through piercing that top level of the pro community.” So Ironmonger did this the traditional way, by putting in the miles: “So I went to pretty much every gaming event all over the world, putting the controllers in the hands of the pros. “I went to the first Call of Duty XP $1m tournament in 2011. I remember talking to some of the guys who now use the controller, some of them just weren’t interested, because they didn’t get it, but a couple of them were and they became big advocates of Scuf, because it helped improve their game. The ones that weren’t, about a year
later they were knocking on my door begging for one. That was one of the key milestones.” Scuf was up-and-running and word of mouth was spreading online, which was a good thing, as the company didn’t have much of a budget to market the product traditionally. “Frankly, there were no other choices. When you’re a start-up and you’re greengrass, you’ve got to grind and get out there and talk to people. You’ve got to try and do things on a shoestring, and make it work. It was about getting cost effective marketing. We had to get into the hands of the pros, because they’re the people who can take best advantage of it and let everyone knows it does make a difference. People listen to them because they’re the best.” Of course, Scuf had ambitions beyond just a handful of the world’s top professionals: “eSports is just the tip of the iceberg, everything below the water is competitive gaming. eSports is a very small part of that competitive community, but ultimately it’s the pinnacle bit, like the premiership in football.” It had the pro-gamers, but Scuf needed to spread the message even further, and the timing was perfect. “From there, how do we talk to a bigger section of the community? YouTubers were getting huge, and they could get the message out, even when we didn’t have money for traditional press,” Ironmonger continues. The explosion in gaming on YouTube and the first professional influencers came right on time for Scuf. But
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Above: “There are millions of diﬀerent permutations of the controller you can create because of all the diﬀerent colours, design and functionalities.“
even the company didn’t quite expect the explosion in eSports that came next. ESPORTS EXPANSION “Scuf has been a critical part of the growth of eSports,” Ironmonger says, and with good reason. “We’ve enabled gamers to have an enhanced experience gaming on console. And it actually means you can display more dexterity, which I’d argue is better for the game, and adds more skill.” The company also saw the benefits of investing back into the sport early on: “We helped grow that eSports scene. A lot of the money we made through selling products, we threw it back into the pro scene so they could travel, to sponsor teams, we really helped them get to the places they wanted to go in order to compete. “It’s authentic, we call ourselves a community company, we’re building products to improve the user experience, we’re sharing revenue with people through our affiliate code, which then gives consumers 5 per cent off. But then we also share revenue through sponsorships and affiliate commission. It works really well in today’s world of social media and that’s how we’ve evolved.” That community is also key to the evolution of the products themselves, Ironmonger explains: “Because we have so many people using the controller now, we naturally get a lot of feedback, which allows us to understand the areas that do and don’t work. Obviously products do occasionally break, we’ve got people playing eight hours a day on it, but we now know why it breaks. The robustness and the improvements we can make based on the feedback is essential to the evolution of our product and our company.”
MAKING IT REAL The company is evolving quickly, too, despite sticking to the same model that made it successful in the first place. “We handcraft all controllers in the US in our Atlanta office, about 150 people, and then in the UK, with around 50 people. You’ll put an order in as a customer, you’ll choose exactly how you want it to look, from colour to functionality, to design, everything. And then we’ll custom build that to your specification and then we’ll ship it out a week later from our facility.” We’re surprised that production hasn’t yet been offshored to China or Taiwan. “[This] business model works well doing on-shore production, because it’s customised, and so naturally one size doesn’t fit all.” But where do all the parts come from? Surely they’re made elsewhere? “Correct,” Ironmonger says. “We’ve got thousands of different pieces of inventory that we create. We manufacture some parts in the US, Taiwan, other parts of Asia, even in England. It’s a mix and match, depending on where’s the best place to do it.” BREXIT BLUES The US remains the key market for competitive gaming on console, but the company was still hit by Brexit. “[The exchange rate] definitely caused us some issues,” Ironmonger says. “You’re talking about a 15 per cent change, and most of our business is in the US and UK. I’m out in the US, and a lot of what we do from the corporate structure and the decisions we make come out of the US, because corporate and the board are all over here. With that being the case, the dominant part of the business is dollar-based, in terms of the American market being far bigger than the European market. So when the pound depreciated so aggressively after
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Brexit, it did have an impact on some of our costs. With that devaluation, you have to make the product more expensive. We were hesitant to do it, but we marginally increased our product prices in the UK, though we’ve actually taken quite a big hit in the business.” ALL PROPER TEA IS THEFT Scuf has carefully protected its inventions. “We filed a lot of patents very early on, which is what’s kept a lot of people out of the market. We have 29 granted patents and another 65 pending. “The IP is what is preventing other people from just ripping us off. And some people are still trying to. We aggressively defend our IP if we believe it’s being infringed, because we’ve invested so much money in it, and we need to protect the work we’ve done.” That brings us back to Microsoft and its Elite Controller, to which Ironmonger responds: “The IP is what stopped Microsoft being able to create the Elite and not pay us any money.” A GAME OF LEAPFROG In the early years, Scuf ’s business was mainly centred around the Xbox. However, nothing stays still for long in gaming, and PS4 is top dog for now. “PlayStation were very smart in doing a deal with Activision on Call of Duty. The franchise is so powerful in the top level of eSports, that it naturally brings with it a lot of gravitas and, ultimately, customers. We saw a switch from a lot of our pros from using Xbox to using PlayStation,” he explains. He points out this isn’t necessarily a personal choice from the players, but rather that the deal means all official competitions are then played on PlayStation: “There’s no choice, you can’t say you’re competing on Xbox, you are competing on PlayStation, that is the console of choice for Activision with Call of Duty.” Of course, there’s more to pro-gaming than Call of Duty: “A lot of other games are doing well – Halo, Gears of War, and FIFA are making a really big play. “It’s like every industry, Sony will leapfrog Microsoft and then Microsoft will leapfrog Sony, it will continue like that backwards and forwards. That’s good, because that competition creates an improved customer experience,” opines Ironmonger.
“Microsoft tracked what we did, we had meetings with them, and it got to the point where they clearly saw there was a market to put these into retail. As the manufacturer of the actual console, that put them in a good place to produce what I call a one-size-fits-all controller,” says Ironmonger, placing a clear line between Microsoft’s effort and his own built-to-demand devices. “We bedded the market, so when Microsoft came in with the Elite, all the hard work had been done. People were used to the prices, because Scuf had created that market.” And that looks to have whetted Microsoft’s appetite for a higher-end gaming device, too. Regardless, Ironmonger is upbeat about the new consoles: “I think it’s an important part of the evolution of the console providers, because otherwise they’d get left behind. It’s going to be a really interesting few years. A PERFECT SHOT As long as we play games with controllers and want a competitive edge, then Scuf has a very bright future. It’s built a high-end brand around product design in a sector where no one thought to outplay the platform holders, and it’s won handsomely. Ironmonger admitting that a lot of its early wins were from “luck and timing,” but Scuf Gaming also saw the rise of competitive gaming before anyone else. It was an early-adopter of influencer marketing with both pros and YouTubers, and it created high-end hardware before the platform holders had even conceived of the mid-gen upgrade or the Elite Controller. Now any casual gamer can land the odd lucky shot, but to get consistent accuracy like a top-end competition pro, you’re probably going to need a Scuf controller.
“Scuf has been a critical part of the growth of eSports.”
GENERATION SCUF Speaking of leapfrogging, the upcoming Project Scorpio could be next big move in that tit-for-tat war. Indeed, Scuf ’s efforts have arguably been a brilliant test case for the viability of Project Scorpio itself, with the success of the company’s own Elite Controller showing that some will pay considerably more money for a better product.
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Virtual reality check As VR enters its second year on the market, Katharine Byrne speaks to the teams behind the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Sony’s PlayStation VR to see what went right, what went wrong and what lessons can be learned from VR’s first twelve months
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o say VR had an eventful first year would be an understatement. Not only do we have three major headsets on shelves, contributing to almost $1bn (£774m) worth of sales around the world, but we also have virtual reality films appearing at Sundance, VR surgical procedures, and HTC has even got its sights set on launching the world’s first virtual reality satellite later this year as part of its $10m (£7.7m) VR for Impact program. Yet, while the excitement around VR has been positively infectious, a recent report from market research firm SuperData suggests that consumers have been somewhat slower to buy into this new technological frontier. According to the data, Oculus shipped 250,000 Rift units in 2016, HTC shipped 420,000 Vive units, and Sony 750,000 PlayStation VR units. It’s hard to find an appropriate yardstick for VR sales, but with PS4 pushing 60m units worldwide, it’s certainly a very small subset of PlayStation gamers. Sales have admittedly been constrained by supply issues across all three headsets at varying times, but that’s little comfort for content creators. So VR hasn’t been quite the commercial smash hit some were hoping. There’s still much to prove, but it’s early days and the potential is immense.
YEAR ZERO Speaking to the teams behind the Vive, Rift and PS VR, it’s clear the first year of virtual reality has been a steep learning curve for everyone. Despite this, though, all three are optimistic about the future of VR, and are well aware of the hurdles they need to overcome to propel the industry forward. “We were really excited when we launched Vive a year ago, but were positively surprised at just how well it was received,” HTC’s EMEA virtual reality program manager Graham Breen tells MCV. “Since then we’ve started to sell through a lot more partners and seen the world of VR grow. We’ve also seen the growth in content outside of gaming as businesses have used it to solve real problems in industries such as healthcare, education, design and entertainment. We’ve learnt a lot during the first year, it’s been a learning curve, and we’ve been discovering new ways of everything, from creating content to giving people the chance to try Vive.” Oculus’ VP of content Jason Rubin echoes Breen’s comments, saying it’s been “a strong first year” for the Rift despite a few teething problems. “VR is just getting started,” he enthuses. “A year after launch and the Oculus store has over 400 Rift titles,
more than 100 of which are compatible with Touch. That’s a huge growth of quality content in an extremely short amount of time. “We understand that there are areas where we could have done better. Our early shipping issues were a clear miss, for example. But it’s important to remember that we are a four-year-old company, with hardware and software on the market for only about a year. We’ve learned from our mistakes, and fixed the problems. It’s also important to realise our wins and generosity. No hardware manufacturer in my memory has given away as much software for free as Oculus has in its first year.” Of course, PlayStation VR has had less time on the market than its PC-powered rivals, but Sony’s immersive technology group director Simon Benson is still very pleased with how the headset has been received so far. “[It’s been] very positive,” he says. “We were very optimistic about introducing our gamers to virtual reality, but it’s only when you launch it that you know for sure. Creating a completely new type of gaming experience that involves wearing something on your head was a real challenge. When we see such fantastic user reviews, we know we have done a pretty good job in getting the important elements just right. “It is still very early days, but we have a better feel for the demand for VR gaming and so we are planning to increase production. This is a really positive sign for the future of VR gaming and I’m looking forward to seeing even more people getting their hands on their own PlayStation VR headset and entering this new world.” PAYING THE PRICE Convincing early adopters is one thing, but the cost of today’s headsets still remains one of the biggest barriers to entry, something that Rubin’s team at Oculus have been all too aware of ever since launch day. “I’ve always said there are two things we need to push VR forward: great content and lower prices,” he explains. “With regards to price, we always knew we’d have to take a serious look at the price of our hardware by the end of the first year. “We’ve given hundreds of thousands of demos in retail stores and after every demo we give a survey. We overwhelmingly hear responses along the lines of ‘That
“We have a better feel for the demand of VR gaming, and so we are planning to increase production.” Simon Benson, Sony
Pictured left to right: Sony’s Simon Benson, Oculus’ Jason Rubin and HTC’s Graham Breen MCV 916 May 5 | 19
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“By dropping the price of Rift and Touch, we’re aggressively pushing VR forward. If you love high-end VR, PC is the place to be.” Jason Rubin, Oculus
he first batch of consumer-ready ift headsets launched on arch th , but its ouch controllers didn t arri e until ecember th.
was great, I loved it,’ but people who don’t buy Rift after a demo are held up by price. It’s as simple as that. “So we did something about the price. That’s been huge for the Rift. By dropping the price of Rift and Touch, we’re aggressively pushing VR forward: more people will get into VR with lower prices and have more money to spend on the great VR content available, and that helps the entire ecosystem grow. “The Oculus Ready program [for PCs] has also made getting a VR-capable PC easier and more affordable than ever before, so the new all-in price for the best VR experience available is now within striking distance of PS VR. Combined with great VR content to keep consumers coming back and making sure they have amazing things to show their friends is the other piece to driving adoption. In the long run, we believe that the PC ecosystem will have the most interesting, compelling content and the most experimental and interesting hardware. If you love high-end VR, the PC is the place to be.” At £499 (plus another £99 for a pair of Touch controllers), the Rift still has some way to go before it’s a direct competitor to Sony’s £349 PlayStation VR, but with Vive still priced at £759, it’s now a much more attractive bundle for those seeking an immersive VR
experience without the hassle of setting up a dedicated space. Breen, however, is unperturbed: “We don’t plan on changing our strategy of delivering the best and most comprehensive VR product to both developers and consumers,” he states. “Vive stands for the best in class VR experience and we firmly believe that it represents excellent value.” Likewise, Benson believes PS VR’s plug-in-and-play approach is still one of its major selling points despite the shrinking price gap. “[PS VR] is designed to be accessible to as wide an audience as possible,” he says. “The price point is just one small factor of that objective. You also have to consider other points, such as the availability of the platform to connect the VR headset to – in our case, the PlayStation 4 is ideal as it is a fraction of the cost of a VR-ready PC and requires no configuration or expertise to guarantee a high quality VR experience. Also, there are over 50m PS4s in the world – all fully capable of running VR content.” HEART’S CONTENT Having weathered multiple console launches over the years, the importance of a healthy content library is something Sony knows all too well. Vive and Oculus
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might have thrown in a handful of free games to help sweeten their respective launch prices, but PS VR’s Day One line-up was in a different class altogether, with the likes of Rez Infinite, Battlezone, RIGS: Mechanised Combat League, Batman: Arkham VR and PlayStation VR Worlds all launching to great critical success alongside established multiplatform VR favourites such as Job Simulator and Eve: Valkyrie. It left Vive and Oculus’ offerings looking a little underwhelming by comparison, with few must-have titles in the bag even months after launch. Rubin, however, is determined to turn this around for Oculus: “When big screen TVs came out, there were decades worth of film and television content available for them,” he says. “We don’t have that luxury here. We’ve had to make all VR content from scratch. “Content is a huge driver of VR adoption and we’re passionate about supporting studios of all sizes, creating all kinds of content, and getting their work into the hands of consumers. Great content will keep people coming back to their Rift and sharing that experience with friends. The more content there is and the better that content is, the more people will use VR.” To that end, Oculus has already invested $250m (£193m) to help developers get their games onto the Rift, and in October Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pledged another $250m to help speed up that process even further. This approach hasn’t been without its critics, but Rubin believes a strong and committed cash flow is crucial to creating a vibrant, healthy ecosystem. “Oculus is – and will continue to be – the most aggressive backer of VR content in the market, and we’re spending that money to jump start the ecosystem within a few years, rather than ten or more. We are very satisfied with VR adoption by the development community. We want great VR content available to the public and Oculus is a source of information and money for studios.” Oculus is also starting to break into Vive’s room-scale market, as users can now add a third sensor to their VR setup to let them move around the room with a pair of Touch controllers. “Oculus has waited to release its hardware and software when it is ready. We could have raced to release hand tracking, but instead we waited until we knew we had the best hand trackers in the business and the best launch line-up and first-year software to support it. We could have raced to release room scale before we were ready, and filled the store with tech demos to support it, but how would that have benefited consumers? “We do not feel a need to race to get features out so we can say we are first. By being patient and strategic we have put ourselves in a position to have better hardware,
and better content, at a lower price point. Ultimately, that sets Rift up to win. Nobody will look back on this first year of VR and remember who came out months earlier with a feature.” FAST TRACK Breen and his team at Vive are also starting to see the benefits of HTC’s $100m (£77.4m) accelerator program, Vive X, which was announced in April 2016. One of the first products to market will be TPCast’s Vive Wireless Adapter, a small device that attaches to the Vive’s head strap and completely eliminates the need for its wire tether. Available in Q2, this $250 (£193) upgrade kit has huge potential for both consumer and business users alike, but Breen believes it’s HTC’s own Vive Tracker devices that will really spur a new direction in the VR industry. “We’re excited for the positive challenges that lie ahead,” he says. “We’re looking at a few developments that will come. One is around the increase in accessories that we’re seeing, especially as a result of the Vive Tracker that we launched at CES. This has already led to items such as gloves, baseball bats, fire hoses, spray guns, gaming guns and cameras all being used in collaboration with our Vive Tracker. Another development that we’re seeing more and more of is content that impacts on more people’s lives, for example, great educational content.” Indeed, alongside its Tracker announcement at CES, Vive unveiled its very own Viveport platform. This has been specifically designed for its ever-growing library of non-gaming content, providing developers with that all-important route to market that simply isn’t available on more traditional storefronts. “When we first launched Vive, most of the content available was gaming content and it has a very natural home with Steam,” Breen explains. “Over the course of the last year, we’ve seen more non-gaming content coming out and that’s been one of the driving factors for Viveport being launched. We’re aiming to grow VR as a whole through Viveport. In addition, we’re launching Viveport Arcade to help developers with access to arcades and to help arcades with access to great content.” Location-based VR was a big topic at last month’s VR World Congress in Bristol, and many speakers, Breen included, are confident that VR arcades will become the first point of contact for many consumers who are curious about this new technology.
ony s lay tation has a lo er resolution than the i e and ift, but its faster refresh rate allo s for smoother isuals.
“Non-gaming content has been one of the driving factors for Viveport’s launch.” Graham Breen, HTC
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“It’s been a really great thing seeing how much demand there is for VR arcades in the modern world and how they’re becoming go-to locations,” Breen continues. “It’s great news and a really good way of bringing people into great VR. Arcades and games aren’t mutually exclusive but rather arcades are outlets for games benefiting arcade customers and developers alike.”
he C i e is currently a tethered headset like its competitors, but this ill soon change once Cast s ireless upgrade kit goes on sale in .
BALANCING ACT Sony, on the other hand, has arguably a slightly harder task on its hands. Unlike its rivals, PS VR is aimed squarely at the world’s gamers - there’s no other use case. It also has to struggle against perception that it’s merely a peripheral, rather than a platform in its own right. The closure of one of PS VR’s biggest developers, RIGS creator Guerrilla Cambridge, doesn’t exactly bode well for the fledgling headset, but Benson assures us that developers are still flocking to PS VR in their droves. “To be honest, we have so many VR developers approaching us that we don’t see [getting more developers to make VR content] as an issue currently,” he says. “In the first few months of PS VR’s life, there are already around 100 VR games and experiences on the store with lots more in the pipeline.” Dedicated VR games are important, but Benson says developers shouldn’t be afraid to create games that can be played both in VR and on a regular TV.
“Resident Evil VII: Biohazard is a great example of a game that works well both in VR and as a conventional TV game. It’s worth noting, though, that the PS VR version has had a lot of tailoring to make it into a good VR experience – it’s not just a case of adding a VR video mode. Overall, I think if a game can work well as a VR game and a conventional game, then this is a real sweet spot, as the game can be available to the widest possible audience, allowing the developer to justify lots of finessing of the game. “DriveClub is a similar example as this is available as a conventional game and a PS VR game, with both delivering a high quality experience. Some developers will still choose to make games that maximise the benefits of either PS VR or TV, and as a result, we are likely to continue to see some games that wouldn’t suit VR and are TV only and some games that wouldn’t suit TV and are VR only. “Overall, I think the main hurdle is just a lack of experience, as VR is such a new medium for gaming. Everyone is learning really fast, however, and we’re seeing many elements of VR maturing very quickly, such as mechanisms to let the players move freely through the VR game worlds comfortably. In another year’s time, I’d expect that the development community will have refined many techniques for making VR games even better with improvements in practically every area of the
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s corporate ice president oy aylor
game. It will be an amazing journey to follow and I’m really looking forward to seeing how things progress and what incredible experiences virtual reality gaming will unlock for us.” FUTURE GAZING SuperData’s predictions for 2017 sales show steady growth for Oculus (predicted to move 496,000 units) and Vive (1.3m units), while PS VR should sell a heftier 3.5m. Elsewhere, Google’s Daydream platform should become even stronger as it rolls out across many top-tier handsets. Benson, Breen and Rubin are all excited by the year ahead and what the next 12 months have in store. “Our focus has always been – and still is – on offering the best possible VR experience,” says Breen. “We believe that as long we can continue to do that then Vive will be in a strong position. We’re doing as much as possible to enhance that experience and to support various areas of VR from items such as the Deluxe Head Strap and Vive Tracker that we announced at CES through to the content creation side with Vive Studios and the content delivery side with Viveport. The VR industry is heading for a brilliant future and it’s inspiring that we can help to enable that.” Benson adds: “Personally, I would like PS VR to be in the homes of many more gamers with everyone enjoying a wide range of VR games and experiences. I’d also like to see more PS VR games with social features integrated directly into the games so our gaming sessions with remote friends can be much more like local multiplayer gaming. PS VR has the opportunity to really deliver on this and amplify the connections with our remote friends. If people think PS VR gaming is great now, then I think they will be even more amazed in a year’s time by the types of experiences that will be available, and I believe that the social element will be a huge contributor to the value of VR gaming.” As for Rubin, he foresees a future where mobile and PC-based VR co-exist just as well as mobile and console games do at the moment: “There is a place in the future of VR for both mobile and PC VR,” he says. “Just think about your daily life – some days you want to kick back on the couch, and with VR that might entail putting on a Gear VR and looking around Yosemite with former president Obama. Other days you might be amped-up to stand, duck, and shoot with Robo Recall for hours. VR should offer a variety of comfort and activity levels because the audience is not homogenous, and I believe mobile and PC VR will both continue to have a place in the ecosystem.” He concludes: “With the most competitive price, the best hardware, and the best content, Rift is set up for a great year. But we will not rest on our laurels.”
AMD: “Plan for the tech in three years time” AT this year’s VR World Congress, held in Bristol last month, AMD’s corporate vice president Roy Taylor discussed the next big challenges in VR and the steps companies need to take in order to meet them: “The future of virtual reality is going to come at us at a rate that’s completely unprecedented in the IT industry,” he says. “Whatever you’re planning, plan not for where you think the technology is now, but plan for where the technology is going to evolve in the next three years. You should be building it into your business plan and the ideas about how you’re going to develop the technology. “One of the challenges we face are those pesky wires. Those wires are an inhibitor to what should be giving great freedom of movement. If [companies like Raw Data developer] Survios can invent a system for us to move around [with Spring Vector], then I don’t want those wires to be an inhibitor. “The next thing you need is really fantastic content. Recently, AMD announced a multi-title extended partnership with Bethesda […] and Fallout 4 VR will be a ground-breaking VR title. This will be the title that changes the industry. This will be the Mario, the Sonic the Hedgehog, the title that changes the way we think about games and virtual reality.
“There’s also a challenge in [using] game engines. The horsepower to make a virtual reality scene like [the opening of the film Gladiator] doesn’t yet exist. It is a challenge, but the competition between AMD and our competitors at Intel and Nvidia is fierce. The quality of the content is going to improve dramatically because we are going to produce better CPUs and GPUs, which will give you the power to put more stuff in a scene. “The other thing we’re going to see is the rise of location-based VR. [The IMAX VR Centre in Los Angeles] is wonderfully popular. It’s the beginning of a profound change we’re going to see around getting VR into people’s hands through location-based VR. [This] is important not only because we can get access to more people and bring in more revenues, but VR in our home is expensive and takes up space. [With location-based VR] we can give people wonderful VR they couldn’t get any other way. “In conclusion, there’s never been a better time to be a producer, a director, an investor, an executive right now in immersive technology and virtual reality. If you have a project or you’re interested in developing something together with us, AMD would love to hear from you.”
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VR’s money puzzle
With many developers now delivering their second and third wave of VR titles, Katharine Byrne speaks to the CEOs of UK studios nDreams and Climax to get their perspective on buliding a business around VR
Above: Climax Studio CEO Simon Gardner
ith vast sums of money being poured into VR around the world, the virtual reality development scene has never been healthier. In a recent GDC survey, for instance, there were more developers making games for VR (24 per cent) than there were for the Xbox One and Project Scorpio (22 per cent), showing a growth of 50 per cent compared to the GDC’s 2015 survey. It’s a trend that’s set to continue as well, with 23 per cent saying their next game will come to VR headsets, versus 22 per cent for Xbox One and Scorpio. Among them are UK studios nDreams and Climax, who now have multiple VR games under their belt with more to come over the next year. “We’re confident and committed as a studio in the future of VR,” nDreams’ CEO and founder Patrick O’Luanaigh tells MCV. “Any emerging technology could
be perceived as risky. However with major companies investing in the hardware and so many studios developing high-quality titles, I’m certain it’s here to stay. But like almost every other new technology, it’ll take several years before it makes a huge mass-market impact.” The same goes for Climax Studios, whose most recent title, Lola and the Giant, marks its tenth VR venture. “As a studio, we want to make sure that we futureproof ourselves as much as possible, which is why we have a good mixed portfolio currently in development which focuses on VR, AR, PC/console and port/support work,” says Climax’s CEO Simon Gardner. “We are using these early days of the multiple VR platforms to learn and help grow our IP which means we look at all platforms and will be releasing on new stores and headsets in the future.” Of course, in the console space, it’s common to judge a platform by the strength of its exclusives. For Gardner
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and O’Luanaigh, however, having multiple headsets available has proven to be quite beneficial. “We enjoy developing for different platforms, as this gives us the opportunity to try out different game styles and genres which play to the strength of each platform,” says O’Luanaigh. “We’ve had a great experience with all of them.” Gardner agrees: “Our most successful VR titles, Bandit Six and Hunters Gate, are established gaming genres which the audience has responded to. Mobile users want immediacy and, possibly, limited interactions. This is something we’re experimenting with now with a title from our Auckland studio, so it will be interesting to see how they perform when they launch later this year.” Climax has also used this time to experiment with different pricing structures: “We recently updated Bandit Six: Salvo to ‘free to try’, which allows you to play the first three missions before hitting the paywall. It’s led to a massive increase in downloads, and conversions are as expected for the mobile market. We have other titles in development, which will allow the base game to be free but DLC will be available – along with the more traditional premium titles. For us, it is all about experiment, experiment, experiment.” UPWARDLY MOBILE As the VR scene matures, O’Luanaigh expects mobile VR to become much more sophisticated, with Gardner predicting it will eventually match its PC counterparts. “Now that the first wave of VR headsets has been released, we’ll see a wide range of experiences available across all platforms, including mobile VR, over time,” O’Luanaigh explains. “Both VR experiences will continue to complement each other and grow together. The technology will become smaller, more affordable, more powerful and with more advanced functionality across the board. I think it’s perfectly okay for mobile VR to be largely populated by shorter experiences at the moment, as it’s an accessible introduction to VR and well-suited to a shorter length.” Gardner concurs: “I think they’ll all meet somewhere in the middle in a few years. Control schemes are currently holding mobile VR back, but when that’s been nailed it will become an ecosystem where one game can live on every headset. Since we launched Bandit Six, mobile hardware has moved on so much. With the Daydream controller and the new Gear VR controller, this gives us more functionality, which leads to more creative games. For VR to succeed in the next five years, we need to hit a mass market price point, and mobile VR feels like it has the biggest opportunity to do that.”
Above: nDreams CEO Patrick O’Luanaigh
SVRVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
TAKING the time to experiment with VR is fine if you’ve got a triple-A budget behind you, but for smaller teams such as the 12-strong studio Svrvive, balancing the books and managing artistic ambition proved problematic, as game designer and programmer Daniel Kihlgren Kallander found out during the six month development cycle of Svrvive: The Deus Helix: “We secured investment in June 2016, but we only had a finite amount of money to sustain us, and if we didn’t get it out before all the triple-A releases in November, we would have had to wait until February to get a decent market for it,” he says. “What we wanted was about ten missions and seven hours of gameplay, but we did the math to see what was realistic. It ended up as five missions with about five hours of gameplay. It’s going pretty well, but it could be better. “Assuming we have around 200,000 Vives in the wild, then if everyone buys the game, great. Except you then need to cover all the costs, so making VR games for just one platform isn’t really recommended right now. It’s doing
well, but it’s not enough to recuperate anything for a company our size. We need to go multiplatform in the future. These spaces are so small these days, even with the Vive and Oculus, that’s about half a million headsets, add in PS VR, that’s another million, then we can actually do something with it. But until then, that’s a problem. The next game we’re doing is for Vive, Rift and PS VR, just to get it out on more platforms.”
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Gardner and O’Luanaigh are also confident about the current state of each headset’s user base: “We’re at the beginning of its success,” says O’Luanaigh. “Hardware sales have hit our expectation and wider recognition continues to grow within the mainstream media which is great. We’ve also seen the number of companies working in VR increase, and this bodes well for the next few crucial years. With [millions of headsets already sold], plus price drops that are making high-end VR more affordable, we’re confident of significant VR growth this year.”
STAR WARS IN THEIR EYES AT a recent BAFTA Crew Games Masterclass event, Criterion gave developers an in-depth look at how it made its new Star Wars Battlefront Rogue One: X-Wing VR Mission. MCV sat down with producer James Svensson to talk about how VR differs to regular game development: “VR has definitely got developers excited and that was no different in our studio,” Svensson tells us. “It was through having this exclusive piece, a reward for our PlayStation players, [that we could] really figure out what VR’s about and try and set a bar for what a triple-A experience would be. “But it really crystallised when we started making Battlefront VR that actually it’s very different. That’s something we’ve had to be very clear on when we’re talking with publishing parts of the company and outside of the company. “It’s as different as mobile games are to console games. When mobile games first came around, a lot of people tried virtual controls and they hadn’t really got the one-finger simplicity quite down yet. They also hadn’t figured out the different ways that people played. VR’s like another new leg of the gaming market. I definitely don’t think it’s going to replace [consoles], because they’re quite different propositions for what your play session is going to be. “One [of the open questions we face] is how long people are comfortable with in VR. We’ve seen players play the mission four times back to back, so they’re in for two hours back to back. It tends to be very hours-based, whereas actually, I’d love to see a VR market that can
be around these almost feature-length experiences that are quite filmic, because they lend themselves to much more led and tailored experiences and emotional immersion. “I can’t imagine people being happy with regularly paying £15 for something that’s two hours long. I don’t think you’d build up a library that way, or not yet anyway. That’s the thing; it’s like working out what those steps are. I think it would start off with some smaller experiences that are either free or very cheap and then getting longer and longer. “That’s not to say that’s the direction it will go in, but I think that could be a leg that it finds itself going towards. There will definitely be a core set of players that will be very happy to get full-length experiences in their VR. “However, the number of headsets in the world is the biggest [hurdle] for something on a modern triple-A budget. So having a lot more headsets out there would definitely be a good thing.”
Gardner adds: “We’re in year four of VR and the market goes from strength to strength. We’re launching our first PS VR title in May, which we’re very excited about as they have such a great platform. The recent price drop for the Rift is a great step, and the content pipeline for all platforms looks promising.” That said, both studio heads think there’s still some way to go before the higher-end headsets reach mass market appeal. “I don’t think those iterations of headsets were ever meant to be mass market,” says Gardner, and O’Luanaigh agrees: “PS VR was unique in the sense that all a consumer needed to do was buy a headset and plug it into their PS4. The same applies for mobile VR – everyone has a smartphone, and mobile VR headsets are very affordable. That meant these headsets would naturally have a lead to start off with, but it doesn’t mean that other platforms will be prevented from gaining mass market adoption over the next few years. Something we’re confident will happen.” VIRTUAL FORECAST When we asked what hurdles VR needs to overcome in the next year, Gardner was straight to the point: “Price and content. Easy, really.” For O’Luanaigh, however, it’s a bit more complicated: “Mobile VR is still imperfect – headsets currently lack features like hand and positional tracking, which are key to great VR in my view,” he says. “So I think you’ll see the technology behind mobile VR accelerate very fast as these elements are addressed. VR is very much a ‘try me’ technology, so hardware companies need to accelerate the opportunities for people to try high quality VR.” As for whether more could be done to help entice developers into VR, there are already plenty of trailblazers out there, but adverse publishing conditions certainly aren’t helping. “It will happen in time,” says Gardner. “We’re starting to see it on PS VR with Batman and Resident Evil 7 and Ubisoft’s efforts. As the market gets bigger, it will be able to sustain larger projects. The user base is currently small and publishers aren’t interested outside of a few bets. Even 12m Wii Us wasn’t enough for the majority of publishers so that’s the market we currently work in.” O’Luanaigh, meanwhile, is more optimistic: “We’re already seeing developers and publishers becoming more involved in making and producing VR titles. You just have to look at the success of Resident Evil 7 and the hotly-anticipated Star Trek: Bridge Crew to see there’s a huge appetite for high-quality triple-A experiences. At the same, the success of indie games such as Job Simulator and Arizona Sunshine are showing everyone the way to success. I’m sure that more will follow – we just haven’t heard about them yet.”
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VR: the ﬁnal rontier
Ahead of the release of Star Trek: Bridge Crew, Marie Dealessandri chats with Red Storm’s creative director David Votypka about the challenges they faced developing the title and the power of a shared, social presence
ack in June last year, MCV named its top titles from E3 2016. When it came to VR games, though, we faced a difficult decision: choosing between Capcom’s Resident Evil VII: Biohazard and Ubisoft’s Star Trek: Bridge Crew. We chose the latter due to the unparalleled sense of being inside a (much-loved) TV show. Now, almost a year later, we’re finally finding out if we made the right choice. Admittedly, we didn’t expect to wait so long before seeing the final product, as Bridge Crew’s launch was pushed back from autumn 2016 to March 2017, and finally to May 30th. “There were actually quite a few [challenges],” Red Storm’s creative director David Votypka tells MCV. “On the technical side, we needed to build a large outer-space game that rendered at 90+ frames per second in stereo, on both PC and PlayStation 4. We also really wanted to do cross-play between the VR headsets, and I’m excited to say that is included in the game. And, of course, it’s a game that supports one to four players, thereby ranging from solo play with NPCs to up to four players online. All of these areas needed various technical trailblazing and the engineers on the project did some great work. “Ultimately, one of our primary goals was to deliver a game that was authentic to the Star Trek brand. This was all really fun to work on, but also presented a variety of challenges to ensure we got things right. Working with CBS and folks like [Star Trek graphic designer, scenic artist and author] Michael Okuda was a real treat and a great way to ensure the nitty gritty details were on point.”
Indeed, when you work on an IP that has a fan base as dedicated and informed as Star Trek does, the attention to detail is vital, as Trekkers will no doubt pick up on every facet of the game. And with Star Trek: Bridge Crew being arguably the most anticipated VR games of 2017, and it’s no wonder Ubisoft wanted to take the time to get things right. TO BOLDY GO... Bridge Crew isn’t just for hardcore Trekkers, though, as Ubisoft’s chosen to position the game’s narrative outside the main story arcs in the films and TV series. “The game is not tied directly to any existing Star Trek narrative,” Votypka explains. “The only thing we have leveraged as a jumping off point is the Kelvin timeline that was established in the 2009 reboot film, and specifically the plot point of Vulcan being destroyed. In Star Trek: Bridge Crew’s campaign, the first mission of the U.S.S. Aegis is to explore a largely uncharted sector of space with the goal of finding a new home for the decimated Vulcan populace. Otherwise the story, the ship, and the crew are all new. The game is really about empowering players to become their own crew, their own officer, and live out their own adventures.” Becoming a Star Trek officer is high on many geeks’ wishlist, so Ubisoft had quite a challenge on its hands when it came to managing player expectations. “We are definitely appreciative of the very positive response that has been received so far for the game,” Votypka says. “Of course, the risk with a lot of hype is that player expectations become so pumped up that they can become nearly impossible to meet.
It’s about empowering players to become their o n cre , their o n o cer.
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“That said, the coverage that’s been generated for the game so far has been almost completely impression based from media and gamers that actually played the game and then reported on their experience. We hope that those sentiments carry through when the full game is released.“ Another issue for Ubisoft is faithfully conveying how a VR game is going to feel for long-time fans. After all, how do you market a game when it’s so difficult to give an accurate preview of what it’s going to be like? “VR is something you simply have to try for yourself in order to really understand and take in the actual experience,” Votypka reckons. “The most important thing we’ve focused on is letting people play the game. Of course, a strong benefit this game has is that it’s based
on such a well-known brand. This makes watching a video of a playthrough much easier to imagine because the brand activity and fantasy is so clearly established and well understood.” That said, Ubisoft also wishes to attract players who aren’t necessarily fans of Star Trek. “Star Trek is ultimately about space exploration and the relationships between the crew, which is a pretty broad and universal fantasy,” Votypka continues. “Along these lines, the core of the game is ultimately about operating a spaceship with your friends, and who wouldn’t want to do that? While the brand brings a great deal of value to the game, being a fan isn’t a requirement to enjoy the core gameplay that Bridge Crew offers.”
“VR has the potential to create experiences in games that simply weren’t ossible before.
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With support for up to four players, Bridge Crew lets Star Trek fans live out their dreams of becoming a starship captain
Pictured: Red Storm’s creative director David Votypka
BEAM ME UP Despite the hurdles Votypka’s team faced with Bridge Crew, he says they never considered making it a non-VR title. “Prior to starting VR at Red Storm, we had been working on prototypes aimed at deepening social interactions in online games,” says Votypka. “When we took one of those prototypes and put it into VR, it immediately became clear how strongly VR can create a sense of social, shared presence. This quickly led to conceiving both Werewolves Within and Star Trek: Bridge Crew a few years ago.” He continues: “Bridge Crew was always a VR game from day one namely because VR empowered us to bring players into the Star Trek universe more deeply and immersively than ever before. With VR, players can be inside the bridge. They can literally reach out and interact with their stations to operate the ship just like we see the actors do in the shows. And just as importantly, you really feel like you’re together with others. You just don’t get that in traditional games.” This also explains why Ubisoft has been heavily investing in VR from day one. After Eagle Flight, Werewolves Within and TrackMania Turbo, Star Trek: Bridge Crew is Ubisoft’s fourth VR title, and all were developed in-house. “Ubisoft is a company that has always believed in engaging with new platforms early, and taking on the risks and rewards that brings,” Votypka says. “When those platforms are successful the benefits are very valuable because we build expertise,
technology, and ultimately leadership in that new space. Our first four games explore VR in very different areas, and now we can observe and learn from each one of them.” LIVE LONG AND PROSPER VR still has a way to go before it reaches a mainstream audience, but it’s clear Ubisoft doesn’t want to be left on the sidelines as this emering technology continues to grow. With Bridge Crew, the developer-publisher might finally have a title powerful enough to attract a new kind of audience to VR, bridging the gap between the mass market and hardcore enthusiasts – especially when it’s releasing on all VR headsets, including a retail version for PS VR. “My personal ambition is to see VR grow and succeed, and to be a part of that,” Votypka enthuses. “VR gaming is something that’s been my career passion and goal since the 90s. VR has the potential to create experiences in games that simply were not possible before, and I can’t wait to see where we can take it and where it will go. VR really is a new frontier. It has so much potential, not only in terms of creating more interactive and social gameplay, but also in other immersive experiences beyond the gaming industry. It’s an exciting time from the development perspective to continue to explore how we can push the boundaries on this platform for compelling experiences to draw players and new audiences.”
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REWARDING AND RECOGNISING THE CONTRIBUTION OF WOMEN IN THE UK GAMES INDUSTRY
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gaming merchandise uk
THE TOP PERIPHERALS FIRMS AND PRODUCTS
As retailers are constantly on the hunt for new products to diversify their offering, Marie Dealessandri rounds up the top peripherals firms in the industry
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Location: San Diego, USA Headcount: 50
Location: London, UK
Key contact: UK accounts manager Alex Sturgess, 020 3735 8125 or firstname.lastname@example.org Key products: Fighting sticks, game pads, racing wheels, controllers, mice, keyboards, skins, stands, for all platforms Website: www.hori.co.uk Hori has 34 years of experience in the peripherals and accessories sector, having worked in games since 1983. “Hori is a Japanese video games accessory company steeped in history – we became inten o’s ﬁrst thir party li ensee o er years ago,” UK accounts manager Alex Sturgess tells MCV o a ays e’re a lobal entity ith o es in the UK, USA, Japan and China. Hori’s strength lies in its motto: ‘Quality and Innovation’. Our team creates cutting edge peripherals and accessories across all consoles, fully licensed by our partners SIEE, Nintendo, Microsoft, The Pokémon Company International, Level-5, Bandai Namco and more.” Hori’s business doesn’t seem to be showing any sign of slowing down, either, he continues: “Sales have continued to increase in the UK and Europe with prime product placement in most major retailers in many regions across Europe. We continue to bring high quality and innovative products designed in Japan to expand our operations in Europe.”
Key contact: VP for EMEA Chris Spearing, email@example.com Key products: Gaming headsets, lifestyle design, high-end audio, for all platforms Website: www.lucidsound.com Co-created by Tritton founder Chris von Huben, LucidSound debuted on the headset scene in March last year and quickly became a force to be reckoned with. “We want LucidSound to stand for premium, for high-quality, well thought out design and exemplary performance, yet at a price value that is in between,” Von Huben told MCV at the time. This ha pai o or u i oun hi h no has a ran e of audio products for all platforms and all types of gamers, whether they are casual or hardcore. Featured product
LS40 7.12 Surround Wireless Universal Gaming Headset
he is u i oun ’s a ship hea set announced at E3 2016 and launched in January this year. It has been designed to be “able to pinpoint every enemy footstep, approaching threat and track teammates in battle.” Price: £179.99
RWA: Racing Wheel Apex for PS4/ PS3/PC
ially li ense by ony this ra in heel o ers advanced customisation options and features LED lighting, 270° turn rotation and advanced immersive vibration feedback. Price: £89.99 MCV 916 May 5 | 35
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Location: Burbank, USA & Maidenhead, UK Headcount: 250 Turnover: £350m
Location: Ruislip, UK Headcount: 50+
Key contact: Head of sales Maud Jarry, firstname.lastname@example.org Key products: Accessories for all platforms, including PS VR and mobile VR Website: www.orbaccessories.com Orb is not just investing in accessories for traditional gaming platforms, as the UK-based company also recently launched a range of retro gaming products and VR accessories. “The team is working hard to create some new products to help retailers maximise their margins from the category,” Orb’s MD Vinal Patel tells MCV. “New Sony VR accessories and Nintendo Switch products will also be available from July. Later this year, we will be launching a new range of products for Project Scorpio. So there are exciting times ahead,” he enthuses.
Key contact: UK sales manager Dave Nelson, email@example.com Key products: Headsets, controllers, keyboards, mice, chargers, faceplates, collectibles, stands, protections, for all platforms Website: www.pdp.com Californian company PDP (Performance Designed Products) designs and manufactures peripherals and accessories for all consoles and handhelds. “The PDP brand is synonymous with producing high quality licensed gaming accessories for Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo console formats and is one of the only third-party accessory companies that offer a licensed solution in controllers, audio and charging,” comments UK sales manager Dave Nelson. The Switch launch was also a good opportunity for PDP to launch a new collection: “We’re excited about our comprehensive range of officially licenced Nintendo Switch accessories and our 2017 roster is looking superb with a range of ‘must have’ items for peak,” Nelson continues. “We’ll be showcasing these at E3 along with our new controllers and new mid-tier priced headsets.“ Featured product
PDP has extended its expertise to collectibles with its Pixel Pals range - small lighting statues based on the industry’s most iconic characters, including Mario, Mega Man and Vault Boy. There are many more to ome in lu in ﬁ ures base on ran hises such as Street Fighter and Halo. Price: £14.99
Orb Retro Plug-in Controller with 200 Built Games
This product is part of Orb’s retro range. It’s both a mini-console and a controller and it features 200 games – you just need to plug it into the TV to enjoy some lovely 80s hits. Price: £14.99
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Location: Hamburg, Germany
Location: Hertfordshire, UK
Key contact: CEO Alan Jones, 0844 500 6475 or firstname.lastname@example.org Key products: Headsets, controllers, charging solutions, cables, eSports, gaming chairs, for all platforms Website: www.prifgear.com
Key contact: VIP Computers’ head of retail Elliott Hodgeon, 0192 528 6915 or email@example.com Key products: PC and console peripherals, gaming laptops and game-orientated software services Website: www.razerzone.com With over 35m users, Razer is one of the most popular gaming brands in the world. Its range covers everything from hardware to peripherals (mice, keyboards, audio), merchandise (apparel, bags) and even software. Created in 2005, Razer is not only providing accessories and peripherals for gamers, but also investing in the broader gaming community through eSports, streamers and developers thanks to its Indie Dev Program. Featured product
BlackWidow Chroma V2 Keyboard
he la k i o hroma is one o Ra er’s a ship products. The award-winning mechanical keyboard was designed for durability and has a life span of up to 80m key strokes. Price: £164.99
Prif is relatively new to the peripherals and accessories market, having been founded in March 2015. But that doesn’t mean the company lacks experience, as it was created by industry veterans Alan Jones and Matthew Allen. Prif already has a wide choice of accessories and it will continue to increase in the coming months. “Prif is working on an exciting range of licensed accessories that will launch later this year,” Jones tells MCV. “The range will include headsets with mic filter technology, controllers, wireless charging plates and premium AV cables.” Featured product
Prif’s Streambox Kit is a plug and play game capture card with HD mic and camera bundled in the same box. Available this summer, it will appeal to the growing audience of gamers who want to capture and create their own content. Price: TBC
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Interview: the MCV Award serial winner, Turtle Beach
The £169.99 Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset
urtle Beach received its first MCV Award for best peripherals and accessories in 2012 and went on to win every year from 2014. During our annual retail survey last December, Turtle Beach was also named the No.1 peripherals manufacturer by retailers – for the third consecutive year. We catch up with the firm’s EU communications director Keith Hennessey (pictured right, with Nick Forder).
Nick Forder Key contact: UK sales director Nick Forder, nick.forder@ turtlebeach.com Location: San Diego, New York, Mexico, Basingstoke Headcount: 130 worldwide, 22 in the UK Turnover: £4.1m Website: www. turtlebeach.com Key products: Headsets for all platforms and budgets, from entry level chat headsets to professional grade eSports gear
You were presented with the MCV Award for Best Peripherals and Accessories for the fifth time earlier this year – what sets Turtle Beach apart from other accessories firms? First and foremost, it helps that we were the first to market, having virtually created the console gaming headset category years back. We’re also constantly listening to gamers and asking what they want from a gaming headset, and then trying to ensure these features are incorporated into our products. Another big factor that sets us apart is our broad portfolio. We make a gaming headset for everyone. Lastly, Turtle Beach is known for innovating in the space – developing features to help gamers have a better experience, to win more, and so on. What other successes have you met recently? Our focus on eSports has been a big success for us. Last year we launched our Elite Pro line of gear tailored for today’s generation of eSports athletes and hardcore gamers. That’s led us to being able to partner with and be the gaming headset of choice for large and influential eSports players, teams and organisations like OpTiC Gaming. We really took our time to get the products right and ensure they would make an impact for pro players. What trends are currently affecting your business? The same challenges that face many businesses, really – how to keep things fresh and differentiate ourselves from the
competition. The sector has grown massively in the last few years and many companies, including the first parties, now have their own audio offerings. So we have to learn to adapt and offer something that no one else does, which is why we focus on consistently delivering a best-in-class game/chat audio experience, and being first to market with innovative and new features like Superhuman Hearing. Where do you reckon the market is heading? The gaming headset space is constantly evolving, with new tech and new consoles being introduced at a faster rate than ever before. It’s important to keep on top of things and adapt our product range to best take advantage of that new tech. We pride ourselves in being first to market on most things when it comes to gaming audio. In terms of where it’s going – it’s exciting with the likes of Dolby Atmos and with VR finding its feet – it’s clear audio will become an even bigger part of the gaming experience than it already is. What’s your assessment of the market right now? It’s competitive, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve just seen Mad Catz, a major player in the industry for years, go out of business and there are lots of companies fighting it out for their respective market share. However, on the upside, competition tends to breed innovation, which is a good thing for all. We certainly keep an eye on what is coming from our competitors, but ultimately try to ensure our products offer something unique to gamers at every level and at every price point.
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Location: Hertfordshire Headcount: 50 Turnover: £4.1m
Location: Dortmund (Germany), San Diego (US), and Hong Kong Headcount: 50 Turnover: £25m
Key contact: Managing director Danny Coe, firstname.lastname@example.org Key products: Gaming accessories for all platforms, flight simulation products, media streamers and consumer electronics, drones and RC products, gaming chairs Website: www.mysnakebyte.com
Key contact: Sales director Tom Hodge, email@example.com Key products: Assorted gaming accessories, charging solutions, storage solutions, for all platforms Website: www.venomuk.com ‘Quality at an affordable price.’ That’s Venom’s philosophy. The UK-based designer and manufacturer has been on the market since 1999 and offers a wide range of products: headsets, grips, charging stands, storage, as well as its PC Pro range for everything PC-related. Venom was an MCV Award finalist again this year in the peripherals and accessories category, and was also voted as one of the best quality peripherals brands in our annual retail survey at the end of last year. Featured product
Nintendo Switch Racing Wheels
This racing wheel twin pack launched just in time for gamers to enjoy Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch. Venom’s Switch range also includes a starter kit and an in-ear stereo gaming headset. Price: £12.99
Founded in Germany in 1997, Snakebyte has become an essential player in the accessories market. It strengthened its position in the UK by partnering with UK sales and brand consultant Twenty5Eight Solutions last March. “2017 is expected to be a year of rapid growth and we have identified several areas where we believe we can capture market share,” Snakebyte’s director of sales and marketing Toni Hannott said. Twenty5Eight’s MD Danny Coe added: “We’re uniquely positioned to offer our clients and retail partners the benefit of our channel management experience, and with an outstanding field marketing team, we’re able to support retail with sell out through training, merchandising support and brand ambassadors who can assist in communicating product virtues to end consumers.” Featured product
Nintendo Switch Power: Kit
This power kit is part of Snakebyte’s new Switch range, which also includes a starter kit, travel cases, headphones, earbuds, controller caps, screen protections and charging cables. Price: £19.99
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LIME DISTRIBUTION The big peripherals player
L Jonathan Rose Key contact: Sales director Jonathan Rose, 0844 893 3933 or jonathan@ limexb360.co.uk Key brands: Astro Gaming, Minds, Quersus, KontrolFreek, Scuf Gaming, Collective Titan One, Skullcandy Location: Kent Headcount: 10 Website: www. limedistribution.co.uk
ime Distribution has been in the peripherals business for over ten years. On top of being the distributor of over 25 peripherals and eSports brands, Lime also offers a merchandise range, partnering with companies like BioWorld Europe. Sales director Jonathan Rose has had a front row seat to the evolution of the sector over the past few years, so we sat down with him to get his view on today’s market: “We’ve seen a shift from Xbox One to PS4, a move to digital on software, but accessories for us are always consistent,” he tells MCV. “VR launched successfully on PS4 as we predicted and this, we feel, is mostly due to the price point and accessibility. You don’t need a £2,000 PC and £800 VR setup. We really need to see some more first party titles, though. The games Sony made have been really good, so it would be interesting to see what more they and other developers can achieve to keep that bubble from bursting.” The risk of this bubble bursting is genuine, not only in VR, but in the peripherals market as a whole. After years of growth, the sector seems to be slowing down. Rose confirms “soft sales in Q1 and quite a competitive market.” However, business still seems to be going well for Lime. “On top of an excellent 2016 in regards to sales, we have established some relationships with some extremely exciting products soon to hit the market,” Rose continues. To boost sales, events are always a good aid when it comes to the peripherals sector, but you do need to choose your partners wisely, Rose reckons.
“We are extremely picky when it comes to events. As a distributor, retailer and brand representative, we always like to see good ROI. It’s good from a brand awareness perspective if a good strategy is there for consumers follow up.” He concludes: “Generally we have always had good experiences from events and have key partnerships in place with Gfinity, ESL and EGX.” Featured product
Strike Pack PS4
This adapter adds extra functions to any PS4 controller, including on-the-ﬂy button mapping and the latest shooter mods, such as optimized rapid ﬁre, fully adjustable rapid ﬁre and many more. Price: £44.99
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Player 3 enters the game ith the inten o
it h hittin the market
he first quarter of 2017 was full of potential, with a wealth of triple-A titles hitting shelves and, of course, the much-awaited launch of the Nintendo Switch. But it seems the quarter only lived up to half of its promise, with sales decreasing 1.4 per cent in value and six per cent in units year-on-year compared to Q1 2016, according to a GfK report for the period. That’s not to say it was all bad news, as Sony had a great Q1 thanks to PlayStation 4 exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn and Capcom’s Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, which sold massively on PS4 (71 per cent of the copies shifted) over Xbox One.
In just under a month, the Switch managed to grab a 5.5 per cent market share in value. This good performance actually widened the already existing gap between the PS4 and the Xbox One, giving Sony’s machine a 50.9 per cent market share during Q1 2017, compared to 46.7 per cent for the last quarter of 2016 and 45.3 per cent for Q1 2016. In the meantime, the Xbox One’s market share fell quite sharply, from 39.1 per cent in Q4 2016 to 32.3 per cent during Q1 2017. While third-party games usually lean slightly towards the PS4, Microsoft paid heavily for the lack of exclusives in its portfolio during Q1 2017, with only Forza Horizon 3 making it into the quarter’s Top 20. The best-selling title on Xbox One for Q1 was actually Ghost Recon Wildands, whereas Horizon Zero Dawn was, understandably, the best-selling game on PS4. But Sony’s strong sales during Q1 isn’t the only explanation behind Microsoft’s below-average performance. Sony may have had a bold portfolio and a strong historical association with some franchises, such as Resident Evil, but a new player entered the hardware game this quarter, with Nintendo lauching its highly-awaited Switch on March 3rd. In just under a month (GfK closed its report for Q1 on April 1st), the Switch managed to grab a 3.4 per cent market share in units and a 5.5 per cent market share in value. Admittedly, that’s not a lot, but it did come at the expense of the Xbox One. It’s also more than the Wii U managed to achieve since at least Q1 2014. That said, the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild allowed the Wii U to see a slight
e analyse its impa t on the
sales ﬁ ures
Q1 UK PHYSICAL RETAIL TOP 10 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands Grand Theft Auto V Horizon Zero Dawn Resident Evil VII: Biohazard FIFA 17 all of uty nﬁnite arfare The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild For Honor ass ect ndromeda attleﬁeld
PS4, XO PS4, XO, PS3, 360, PC PS4 PS4, XO, PC PS4, XO, PS3, 360 PS4, XO, PC NS, Wii U PS4, XO PS4, XO, PC PS4, XO, PC
Ubisoft Rockstar Sony Capcom EA Activision Nintendo Ubisoft EA EA
Source: Ukie/GfK, Period: Q1 2017 - January 1st to April 1st
increase of its share, from 1.5 per cent to 2.3 per cent in value quarter-on-quarter. However, Breath of the Wild still sold 74 per cent of its copies on the Switch against 26 per cent on the Wii U. Interestingly, the Switch didn’t have a huge impact on Nintendo’s ranking in the publishers’ charts for Q1. It gained one spot in value, charting at No.3 with 12.2 per cent of the software share, and remained at No.3 as far as units were concered, with 10.8 per cent of the market. That’s likely because, even though the Switch had a strong launch (at the time of writing it has reached 2.74m units sold worldwide), the launch line-up for the console was actually pretty poor, with Breath of the Wild being the only triple-A flagship physical release for Nintendo. We can expect the platform holder to increase its share going forward, as other flagship titles release, starting with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which hit shelves on April 28th.
Breath of the Wild sold primarily on the Switch – 74 per cent of its copies
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Developer: Arkane • Publisher: Bethesda • Distributor: Advantage Distribution • Platform(s): PS4, XO, PC • Price: £59.99 (PS4, XO), £49.99 (PC)
Prey "could stand as one of 2017's most engaging single-player experiences"
The publisher says...
The press say...
How well will it do?
Prey was officially announced at E3 2016, having leaked just a couple of days earlier. Initially thought to be the long-awaited sequel to 2006's Prey, it turned out to have no ties whatsoever with the previous game apart from the name. Arkane's creative director Raphael Colantonio explained: "I think the association that people have about Prey is that it's about aliens on a space station, and it's a first-person game. As we started it, the name was available, and the connections were easy to be made." Bethesda's PR and marketing chief Pete Hines added that players should "not hold on to anything from the previous game." n
Based on the game's opening hours, previews have been very positive. Critics all agreed that Prey takes a lot of inspiration from BioShock. Wired's Matt Kamen described it as a "taut thriller," in which "reality and perception are victims on the altar of a psychedelic narrative that leaves you unsure what, if anything, is true." He added that if the rest of the game follows through, Prey "could stand as one of 2017's most engaging single-player experiences." These feelings were echoed by IGN's Ryan McCaffrey, but he also expressed some caution as the PC build he tried didn't run quite as smoothly as he expected. n
The confusion surrounding the name could work against Bethesda, but its strong previews and the recent popularity of space games should help overcome any queries about its lineage. However, with Bethesda and Arkane's latest outing, Dishonored 2, falling short of expectations last November, it's quite possible Prey will suffer the same fate, especially given a number of similarities between the two titles. To Dishonored 2's credit, it launched in the same month as CoD: Infinite Warfare, Watch Dogs 2 and Final Fantasy XV. While Prey is launching in a comparatively calm period at retail. n
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biggamereleases Release date: 05/05
Release date: 19/05
Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series
Developer: Telltale Games Publisher: Telltale Games Distributor: Warner Bros Platform(s): PS4, XO Price: £24.99
Developer: NetherRealm Studios Publisher: Warner Bros Distributor: CentreSoft Platform(s): PS4, XO Price: £54.99 Guardians of the Galaxy: a "characterdriven narrative"
Telltale's Guardians of the Galaxy series comes to retail today, a couple of weeks after the first episode launched digitally. Described by Telltale's CEO Kevin Bruner as an "original, character-driven narrative," its strategy is to "establish a new standard for Marvel games." Episode 1: Tangled up in Blue received encouraging reviews, with Videogamer's Colm Ahern saying it "mirrors the tone of the movie." Waypoint's Patrick Klepek, however, criticised Telltale's "hobbled tech" and the "sluggish frame rate." n
Injustice 2 wants to "push the genre forward"
Injustice: Gods Among Us' sequel is hitting shelves in two weeks, some four years after the first instalment. DC Universe characters return to fight again, with Warner Bros' president Martin Tremblay saying he wanted to "push the genre forward," while allowing "players to customise and level-up their favourite DC Super Heroes and Super-Villains is a significant leap.” Injustice 2 also comes in an Ultimate Edition priced at £89.99, with more fighters, skins and gear. n
totaldiscrepair.co.uk Call: 01202 489 500
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Developer: Impulse Gear • Publisher: Sony • Distributor: CentreSoft • Platform(s): PS VR • Price: £45.99
Farpoint is "one of PS VR’s best and most exciting upcoming titles"
The publisher says...
The press say...
How well will it do?
With Farpoint, developer Impulse Gear has promised to change the way gamers play in VR. It's no idle boast either, as this PlayStation VR exclusive is launching alongside Sony's new Aim controller. "Interaction with the PS VR Aim controller was really important," Impulse Gear's art director Randy Nolta explained. "The act of holding a physical weapon in your hands, aiming by looking down the sights, reacting, ducking and leaning into cover as you would in real life." He added that Farpoint offers a "unique sci-fi story" and that its co-op levels were "custom created to offer an intense, challenging experience." n
Farpoint left an excellent impression on those who have been lucky enough to try it. Trusted Reviews' Brett Phipps said Sony's new PS VR title felt like the "VR FPS Starship Troopers game [he's] been desperate for." Already enthused by the single-player mode at E3 last year, he said he "continued to be very impressed" by Farpoint's co-op action, praising the accuracy of the Aim controller, which felt like "a natural extension of [his] arms." UploadVR's David Jagneaux was convinced as well, dubbing Farpoint as "one of PS VR’s best and most exciting upcoming titles," with the Aim controller being one of its best assets. n
Playing in VR remains niche, but Farpoint can expect to perform at least as well as other big physical PS VR releases such as Eve: Valkyrie, which launched at retail alongside the headset in October. CCP's dogfighting shooter debuted at No.20 in the UK weekly charts, and made it to No.42 in the monthly rankings. The fact that there aren't many VR titles available as physical releases could actually weigh in Farpoint's favour. Its biggest selling point, however, will be its bundled version with Sony's new Aim controller, as Farpoint clearly has the ability to demonstrate what the Aim is capable of, and vice versa. n
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The pick of the crop from this week's digital downloads The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, Episode 4 Developer: Telltale Games Publisher: Telltale Games Platforms: PS4, PC Price: £5.35 Release date: Out now OUT NOW
A month after the third episode, the fourth instalment of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series has finally released. Thicker than Water received mixed reviews but should sell well thanks to the huge fanbase of both Telltale’s series (which has sold over 50m episodes to date) and The Walking Dead in general.
Super Rude Bear Resurrection
Developer: Alex Rose Games Publisher: Vorpal Games Platforms: PS4, PC Price: £11.99 Release date: Out now
Developer: Team Reptile Publisher: Team Reptile Platforms: PS4, XO Price: £9.99 Release date: May 10th
Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition
Having been a hit on Steam with over 400k units shifted and overwhelmingly positive reviews, Team Reptile’s Lethal League is now coming to PS4 and Xbox One. The two-man team behind the projectile fighting title rebuilt the game from scratch for consoles. It can be played solo or with up to four players.
Developer: Mojang Publisher: Mojang Platforms: NS Price: TBC Release date: May 12th
Super Rude Bear Resurrection is landing on Steam today, having launched on PS4 on Tuesday. In this title created by British developer Alex Rose, your corpse stays behind every time you die – and you die a lot. The good news is that you can use the bodies to progress further into the game.
The Switch version of Minecraft is releasing next week, with a physical version due later this year. The Super Mario MashUp Pack that released last year is included in this new version. It can be played by up to four players in local (on the TV or in tabletop mode) and it supports the Switch Pro Controller.
Release schedule Title
May 5th Akiba's Beat Don't Starve Mega Pack Dreamfall Chapters Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series Prey World to the West
PS4, Vita PS4 PS4, XO PS4, XO PS4, XO, PC PS4
RPG Adventure Adventure Adventure FPS Adventure
PQube Sony Deep Silver Telltale Games Bethesda Soedesco
01462 487 373 01216 253 388 01256 385 200 020 7984 5000 0121 506 9585 01902 861 527
PQube CentreSoft Koch Media Warner Bros Advantage Pavilion
May 12th Birthdays the Beginning LEGO Dimensions - Harry Potter Fun Pack LEGO Dimensions - LEGO City Fun Pack LEGO Dimensions - The Goonies Level Pack
PS4 PS4, XO, Wii U, PS3, 360 PS4, XO, Wii U, PS3, 360 PS4, XO, Wii U, PS3, 360
Simulation Toys-to-life Toys-to-life Toys-to-life
NIS America Warner Bros Warner Bros Warner Bros
020 8664 3485 01216 253 388 01216 253 388 01216 253 388
Open CentreSoft CentreSoft CentreSoft
May 16th The Surge
01256 385 200
May 17th Farpoint (PS VR)
01216 253 388
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It’s been a competitive couple of weeks, with eSports aplenty and some real sporting action for charity as well
Sucker Punch To celebrate the launch of Dawn of War III, Sega has recreated a real life Space Marine Power Fist. Made through a combination of 3D printing, F1 car components and weapons grade aluminium, the 9.6kg pneumatically-powered device is capable of delivering over 3,330 Newtons of impact force, allowing even the weediest of warriors to smash their way through a brick wall – as long as they’re wearing a harness to help support the weight, of course.
War never changes Activision officially unveiled the next instalment in its Call of Duty franchise last week, giving players their first glimpse of its new World War II epic via a global livestream hosted at the London IMAX. Developers Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey from Sledgehammer Games were on hand to take gamers through their vision for the game, as well as their historical research, which involved travelling along the same routes as the first infantry division and other Allied units from the English Channel all the way to the Reine.
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Fanning the breeze
Fnatic celebrated the opening of its new London office last week with a launch party in Shoreditch. 1v1 Rocket League stations were available along with VIP rooms with gaming beds provided by Casper mattresses where attendees could either play games or chill out with snacks and drinks.
JÜRGEN GOELDNER has joined Kalypso Media as its strategic advisor, calling the publisher a “hidden gem [with] enormous growth potential.” Co-founder and global MD Simon Hellwig is very pleased to have Goeldner on board: “With Jürgen, I have an experienced sparring partner who can help me with the strategic and operational orientation of Kalypso,” he said.
The second European regional final of the 2016/17 PES League Road to Cardiff took place last weekend at Anfield football stadium. 16 players went head to head to determine the next four contestants to win a place at the World Final, which will be held alongside the UEFA Champions League Final in Cardiff this June. $200,000 is up for grabs as the main prize. England sadly crashed out in the early rounds, but congratulations to the winners, Ettorito97, El Matador, TioMit_PW and ALexAlgucil.
GAVIN CHESHIRE has joined Kiss Ltd as business development consultant. He brings over 25 years of experience to the role and will oversee new game laun hes in a ariety o i erent territories. CEO Darryl Still commented: “These are exciting times for both Kiss Ltd and our development partners.”
raised last year along and over 2.7m in the past 9 years
It’s promotions galore at i a is this month n the marketing department, DAN KILBY (pictured, above) has been promoted to marketing and special projects director, while SIMONA MOHAN (pictured, below left) has moved up to marketing and special projects manager. Over at IGN, GAV MURPHY (pictured, below right) has been promoted to lead social video producer. After seven and a half years at i a is ilby sai he’s “overjoyed” with his new role after seven and a half years with the company, while Mohan is “excited to be moving up in the industry.” Murphy, meanwhile, commented:
“Other than projecting our videos onto the side of the moon with some kind of mad space projector, reaching IGN’s audience through our huge social reach is the next best thing, and I’m excited to shape what we do with that reach in the future.”
PLAY YOUR PART BECOME A MEMBER AMBASSADOR TRUSTEE WWW.GAMESAID.ORG
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Uni Sans SemiBold
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Stuck in the mud 38 members from Future Publishing, including journalists from GamesRadar+ and Official PlayStation Magazine (pictured above) took on the Tough Mudder challenge last weekend to raise money for Special Effect. “The muddy water I swallowed might be clouding my judgment, but Tough Mudder was an amazing experience,” GamesRadar+’s senior commissioning editor Matt Elliott commented. “Every obstacle tests your teamwork in unexpected and challenging ways, although running a website is surprisingly good preparation for climbing impossibly slippery walls. Best of all, Team Future managed to smash the target for our chosen charity, Special Effect – all the bumps and scrapes are worth it when you’re raising money for such a worthwhile cause.” To add to the donation fund, head to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/FuturePlc
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Special Effect held its annual Strike Club bowling tournament last week, which saw teams from the across the UK games industry get together to raise money for charity. The event was sponsored by Sega, Miniclip, Supercell, Marcussen Consulting, Facebook, Testology, Space Ape and First Touch Games, and teams from the Gamer Network, Bossa, Mag Interactive, Hutch, Studio Gobo and Future Games of London were just some of the names in attendance. Over £40,000 was raised for Special Effect and Maggie’s cancer support Centres. Dates for next year’s event will be announced soon.
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