Augmented reality and virtual reality are becoming increasingly important tools in a variety of areas but esports is certainly one of them where we expect to see their influence grow. Many software developers are utilizing AR and VR in their titles to provide the user with a more immersive experience. It’s not something that will be going away anytime soon as the market craves new and innovative ideas which will eventually become the norm for most of the games we play today.
The esports market as a whole has been exploding and the global pandemic was the spark that lit the fuse as it brought entirely new demographics to the world of video gaming. Yes, the irony is that while businesses were shuttered around the world because COVID-19 had devasted economies and crippled virtually all industries, esports was seen as the one refuge where people could interact, albeit remotely, and forget about the madness.
Many who would ordinarily have gone to sporting events, theater productions, gymnasiums, or any number of recreational destinations were suddenly without anything to do or anywhere to go. And that is a big reason why esports and video gaming have skyrocketed in popularity. It was already a growing market before the pandemic but now it has caught fire.
In fact, the esports phenomenon has become so mainstream that you will often see a sports betting forum discussing the odds on major esports tournaments. That’s right, some of the best online sportsbooks are offering odds on tournaments like the recently concluded TI10 as well as many others. And in some cases, betting on it has become nearly as popular as traditional sports. You know your sport has hit the big time when the bookies are taking action on it!
Ohio University Tops in Ohio for AR/VR Programs
The next wave of esports developers are now being homegrown in our academic institutions of higher learning and Ohio University was just recognized as the best in the Augmented and Virtual Reality fields in the state. They were also ranked 36th overall in the nation which gives you an idea of how popular virtual and augmented reality has become in academia.
Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth said, “We’re grateful for this recognition of the excellent training we offer in this fast-growing field. Our students have access to hands-on experience in AR and VR technology starting their first year and I’m excited at how we’re continuing to expand those opportunities.”
Associate Professor John Bowditch, director of the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab stated, “Ohio University has invested many resources in AR/VR to become a national hub for AR/VR research and education. We hope that future recognition will continue to attract diverse students from all over the world.”
VR/AR in Esports on Its Way
The modders are doing much of the work as there has been a dearth of VR esports titles because the professional players rely on their mechanical skills and precision to excel. The VR headsets we use now are not ideal for the major esports and its tournaments, however, we see remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3 are being tinkered with to accommodate the virtual realm.
Earlier this year, Facebook announced there were over 60 titles available for their VR headsets, Oculus Quest and Oculus Quest 2. Preorders for Quest 2 were five times more than that of Quest, which debuted only two years ago. That signals a growing market and one that has yet to be fully cultivated.
Lewis Ward, research director of gaming, esports, and VR/AR at the International Data Corporation, a market intelligence firm, remarked, “If you rewind the clock three or four years, there weren’t very many titles that grossed over a million dollars. So that’s an important kind of benchmark or, you know, an important trend line that does suggest that VR is growing. And [the Facebook announcement] is not the only evidence of that. It’s evidence of a recent Facebook surge since the Quest line was announced, but you also see stuff on [PC-based gaming platform] Steam and whatnot, suggesting that more PC gamers are doing it as well.”
One of the biggest barriers to entry for Virtual Reality gaming has been the cost of the headsets. Motion sickness is another obstacle but if the costs can decrease the demand would certainly increase and we would see many more VR titles than are currently on the shelves.
Elizabeth Loverso, VP of Product Development at Ubisoft’s Red Storm Entertainment, offered the following, “VR has the potential to appeal to not only gamers, but also to a wider audience through its capability to provide unique player experiences. For hardcore gamers, it offers a more immersive way to play some of their beloved franchises. VR also appeals to a wider, more casual audience by immersing them in a virtual world without the same complexity more traditional games rely on. As VR technology continues to evolve and exciting new games are released, we believe more players will discover its potential.”