Recently, virtual reality has emerged again into the mainstream gaming and technology spotlight with the release of the second wave headsets. Among them, the oculus quest offers a unique, easy, tetherless experience that has allowed consumers (who want VR but don’t want to purchase or can’t afford an expensive pc) to dive into VR with ease. Meanwhile, Valve is pushing the boundaries of VR technology with their headset, the valve index, meant for VR enthusiasts who want to see where VR can go in the future. As of April 9th 2019, there are more than 171 million VR users worldwide, and 78% of Americans are familiar with VR technology. VR is obviously on the rise, and with its surge in popularity, its reasonable to speculate on its place in esports.
Esports has already begun developing around VR. With titles like Onward and Echo Combat, and the recently released Space Junkies, the VR esports community is definitely not lacking on esports viable games. Along with viable titles for esports, the VR league (VRL) has found plenty of people to compete in VR esports. But one of the major problems thus far is viewership. Besides the occasional VR esports tournament being featured on Twitch’s front page, the views that the tournaments typically get is around a couple thousand. This isn’t surprising. Most people watch esport tournaments of games that they are familiar with and enjoy playing. Seeing that VR isn’t nearly as accessible or as popular as non VR gaming, the lack of views on VR esports tournaments makes sense. Hopefully, now that VR is becoming more accessible and popular, VR esports should begin gaining popularity. I say hopefully because VR esports could create a new, more exciting, interesting, and unique way of watching people compete in esports.
Typical gaming consoles (along with PC gaming) limit the player to movements only made possible by typically two joysticks and a couple of buttons. VR allows players to interact with the in-game world and other players in endless different ways. VR esports can feature people leaning around corners, going prone, or taking cover, all using their bodies. The amount of ways that players can perform certain actions is increased substantially. For example, if a player needs to block incoming bullets, they could flip a table over and take cover behind it.
In order to see VR esports become increasingly popular, we need to see VR continue to become more accessible and easy to operate. The oculus quest was a huge success and step forward for VR itself, along with VR esports. Hopefully VR can continue to forge and become popular and slide into the esports scene, creating an entirely new way to compete in video games.