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‘We expected VR to be two to three times as big as it was’

'We expected VR to be two to three times as big as it was'

‘You can’t build a business on that, but there’s hope’

October 2017 was a tough time for CCP Games, the Icelandic creator of EVE Online. The company has always been at the forefront of experimentation, there were too many hands in too many cookie jars. While they’re best known for their play-run MMO, the CCP has also delved into the sports, shooter and simulator genres: sometimes that curiosity has a limit.

Late last year CCP announced that they were shutting down all of their VR projects: a decree that was so explosive that they actually closed down their Atlanta and UK offices. According to a statement at the time, “the EVE Online development team was not impacted at all” but the ordeal clearly impacted the company as a whole.

This week I spoke to CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson about where VR already went and where it was going at EVE Vegas.

Pétursson begins with a staggering statistic: “we expected VR to be two to three times as big as it was, period,” he muses. “You can’t build a business on that.” There is a new hope though, as Pétursson mentions the Oculus Quest as a potential savior in multiple ways.  It’s something we both agree on. While I’m no soothsayer and have no idea of the mass market will actually take to it, the six degrees of freedom and tether-free VR experience is vastly different than the generation we’re in currently. Just popping on the headset and walking around a room with a baked-in gaming PC is going to be night and day compared to what’s on offer now.

If that era of resplendence comes, Pétursson and his company aren’t going to necessarily jump back in right away. “If it does take off, and I mean if, we’ll re-assess. The important thing is we need to see the metrics for active users of VR. A lot of people bought headsets just to try it out. How many of those people are active? We found that in terms of our data, a lot of users weren’t.”

When pressed as to when he knew that VR wasn’t going to be the future of CCP and the landscape as a whole, Pétursson stated “May of last year (2017) is when we started to figure it out. Was it a surprise? Maybe. But the picture was filling in that there would not be a way to continue with VR as heavily as we were.” For reference that was roughly a year after the launch of Eve: Valkyrie (and its many expansions) and before the arrival of their sports project, Sparc.

Despite how everything shook out Pétursson says he has “no regrets,” a sentiment he’s been firm on since the closing of the aforementioned studios. His next words are reflective: “it was right to stop, and it was right to start. I remain a long-term believer of VR.”

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