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Ubisoft VP: 'We're trying to figure out what is fun' about VR

"From a financial standpoint right now, VR is research for us," says Ubisoft's Chris Early. "We're making real games, making real money, but... we all need the industry to grow."

Ubisoft has become known for jumping into new game technology in a careful, measured manner, and VR is no different.

At an intimate Ubisoft press event last night, company leaders talked about upcoming games, two of which are new virtual reality titles: the multiplayer shooter Space Junkies and the psychological thriller Transference.

For VP of digital publishing Chris Early, Ubisoft’s careful foray into VR is about getting into a potentially huge market on the ground floor, and having dev teams that know how to make quality VR games once the young VR market becomes more financially viable.

“From a financial standpoint right now, VR is research for us,” Early said in a Q&A session when we asked when he might expect VR to substantially contribute to Ubisoft’s bottom line.

“We’re making real games, making real money, but from a substantial impact, we all need the industry to grow, and more headsets to be on people,” he said.

While still categorized as “research,” as Early points out, Ubisoft is doing this research with commercial products. Games like Eagle Flight, Werewolves Within, and the recently released Star Trek: Bridge Crew (pictured), among others, exhibit the biggest commitment to VR when compared to other major game publishers.

It’s the same strategy that Ubisoft adopted with the launch of a then-unproven Nintendo Wii – get early to market on new, promising technology and products and, hopefully, reap the benefits.

Early said that, like many involved in the VR space, the market isn’t growing as quickly as he’d like. But in the meantime, Ubisoft teams can hone their skills with the new tech.

“As to when those [VR] kits will produce [significant financial] results? I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think anybody else really does. We’re trying to figure out what is fun about it."

“As to when it will make a big difference for Ubisoft, I think it already has from a creative standpoint….The concept of storytelling in a new medium and a new way to direct and deliver entertainment is something we bring back to our games as well.”

For now, Ubisoft, which internally seems to be a particularly experimental publisher, at least as far as gigantic triple-A publishers are concerned, continues to plug away on its VR research, spreading first-hand dev knowledge to other Ubisoft teams.

For example, Space Junkies employs the “blinder” technology that was implemented in Eagle Flight to help reduce motion sickness. And now Space Junkies is implementing an in-VR editor that could benefit other Ubisoft VR games in the future.

“We continue to look at all the technologies that come out,” said Early. “We get the dev kits in right away and look at what can be done. Every studio can determine what they’ll be interested in, what they’ll be looking at [in terms of VR] while experimenting.”

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