The Weekly Fetch Quest – October 17, 2016

Welcome to Theory of Gaming’s Weekly Fetch Quest, in which we adventure out into the world searching for the week’s most important news, and gather it all in one place, for your reading pleasure (and unlike most adventurers, we’ll fetch these items for you free of charge).

Every Monday, we’ll post the top stories from the previous week relating to the world of video games, along with some insights into why these are the news stories you should be reading. The Weekly Fetch Quest promises to be a brief look at these events that will get you caught up in no time at all.
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Sony’s new PlayStation 4 VR headset is out now

sony_playstation_vrIt’s not every week that one of the big three release a new piece of gaming hardware, but last week saw Sony release their highly-anticipated Playstation VR. Initial buzz is that this is the first VR headset that delivers power and a competitive price point, which is impressive considering Sony is already selling each unit at a profit. Add to this an impressive slate of games available at launch or in the near future, and Sony may have the first solid VR headset for gamers hesitant to drop the hundreds of dollars necessary for an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift (and in a comedic turn of events that’s likely to get patched, the device also works on the Xbox One). Hopefully the launch of Playstation VR goes smooth enough that a clear leader in the VR market emerges, preventing even further fragmentation and higher costs for games on a budget.

John Carmack says VR devs are “coasting on novelty”

Seemingly reading our minds, Oculus CTO John Carmack told attendees of last week’s Oculus Connect that VR is currently “coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before.” This is a major concern for the technology, not just because it’s expensive, but non-traditional game design (which VR falls under) tends to go awry when focusing on gimmicks and not having a solid plan.

eSports taking viewership away from real sports

esports_popularityTo the surprise of few, the popularity of eSports is so great that it’s having a measurable negative impact on the ratings of real sports. An estimated 76% of eSports fans claim that eSports is “taking away from hours they used to spend on viewing sports.” This data only included gamers who self-identify as both eSports and traditional sports fans, so the impact among non-gamers remains to be seen. But it’s not a stretch to see a future in which real sports games begin to sell less and less copies, while eSports games continue to see a rise in sales. After all, with the growing complexity of sports games, most gamers would rather focus on titles like Overwatch instead of NBA 2K17, since the former seems easier to master than the latter.

Niantic has no plans yet to release Pokémon Go tracker beta fix to broader world

Despite recent reports that the hit mobile title Pokémon Go has encouraged players to take an estimated 100 billion additional steps, the future of 2016’s biggest sensation is in jeopardy, due to difficulties by developer Niantic, Inc. to release a stable, reliable tracker for the game. For those who missed the Pokémon Go craze, the ability to track Pokémon is an essential element to the game’s design, but the feature was removed after launch due to a higher than estimated amount of traffic on the servers, rendering the mechanic useless. However, Niantic has not offered a replacement, and continues to shut down third party tracking apps. Even more frustrating is that communication from Niantic to the community is still sporadic and lacking concrete details. Along with embattled developer Hello Games, Niantic is serving as a cautionary tale for how not to communicate and promote a title pre- and post-launch. Further evidence than both Niantic and Hello Games are engaging in the worst possible strategy is the positive reception developers Cloud Imperium Games and Foundry 42 received after announcing yet another delay to their highly anticipated and crowd-funded title Star Citizen. Despite our trepidation with crowd-sourced games, and worries from backers, the open and honest communication from the development teams has led fans to continue their support, something both Niantic and Hello Games could benefit from.

Valve follows Oculus’ lead with new Vive controller prototype

virtual_reality_hardwareRecent reports indicate that Valve, in an attempt to help level the competition between the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, has begun production on a new controller for the HTC Vive. Hopefully it’s far more successful than Valve’s last attempt at entering the hardware market, and that Valve’s example encourages other developers to further experiment with non-traditional game design. In semi-related controller news, Valve has also announced that players will soon be able to use a Playstation 4 controller with Steam, thanks to efforts by Valve to get the controller running natively in their popular gaming service.

Mini Gaming PCs Are Ready For Virtual Reality

In welcomed news, the hardware in mini-PCs has finally caught up to the minimum specifications for VR headset use, a positive move that helps lower the barrier to entry for this new tech. While still not perfect or able to run games at their highest settings, this is a positive step in the right direction.