Virtual reality to get real at E3 video game show


Mon, Jun 15, 2015 - Page 13

Virtual reality and the battle to stream play online are set to take center stage at an Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) video game extravaganza opening in Los Angeles tomorrow.

Blockbuster video games are to once again be the main event at the industry’s biggest trade show, but in the wings, attention is likely to shift to the promise of stepping into the games virtually and streaming them as spectator sports.

“Like every year, E3 will be about the marquee video game titles that will take the world by storm,” TechSavvy Global LLC analyst Scott Steinberg told reporters on Saturday. “[However,] there are side battles going on. YouTube is making a play to be the absolute destination for gamers, but Twitch has a strong position. Of course, you have virtual reality.”

Analysts expect this E3 to be a coming-of-age of sorts for virtual reality, which has been around for decades, but remained an unfulfilled promise for gamers eager to immerse themselves in fantasy worlds.

Facebook Inc-owned virtual reality firm Oculus VR Inc has promised hands-on demonstrations of games at E3.

Oculus aimed squarely at video game lovers on Thursday as it unveiled Rift headsets that it plans to begin selling early next year.

It did not disclose pricing for the Rift headset, which is to come with an Xbox controller due to an alliance with console maker Microsoft Corp.

“There was always this distance between players and the game,” Oculus Studios head Jason Rubin said. “Virtual reality lets you step through that window.”

Sony Corp’s big presence at E3 is to include demonstrations on Project Morpheus virtual reality headgear it is readying for market.

“Immersive technologies have a lot more to offer than video games, but it is a great place to start,” Gartner analyst Brian Blau said. “Game developers know how to get people immersed in graphical simulations better than anybody; it is natural to think they will be first in line to create content.”

Blau expected the virtual reality market to be fiercely competitive.

Google Inc’s video-sharing powerhouse is set to face off against Twitch at E3, where YouTube plans to preview a version of its platform tailored to gamers.

YouTube is creating an online arena devoted to video game play, jumping onto a hot “e-sports” trend and challenging leading video game play broadcasting platform Twitch.

YouTube Gaming is to debut in Britain and the US in the coming months, product manager Alan Joyce said.

“YouTube Gaming is built to be all about your favorite games and gamers, with more videos than anywhere else,” Joyce said in a blog post.

Similarly, Inc-owned Twitch is set to have a strong presence at E3, with plans to live-stream news conferences, demos and interviews.

Twitch, which was acquired by Amazon last year for US$970 million in cash, plans to augment its English-language broadcasts with regionalized shows from partners including Rocket Beans TV in German and Jeuxvideo in French.

San Francisco-based Twitch streams games being played for non-playing viewers to watch and hosts gaming events.

It also allows viewers to chat with the players and others, lending it some of the qualities of social networking Web sites.

Twitch capabilities are built into new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles.

US video game titan Bethesda Softworks LLC was to hold its first-ever major media event late yesterday in the Dolby Theatre, best known as the home of the Academy Awards.

Bethesda has promised to debut a highly anticipated new installment in its Fallout post-apocalyptic action game franchise.

“We know what this game means to everyone,” game director Todd Howard said in a news release. “The time and technology have allowed us to be more ambitious than ever.”

In keeping with years past, the day before E3 officially opens was to be packed with theatrical media events revealing scenes from new versions of much-loved games on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or Wii U consoles.

Top-selling game franchises promoting new installments are to include Batman, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect and Call of Duty.

“You are going to see more of the same, only better,” Steinberg said of game makers’ trend toward safe bets on franchises with strong followings.