A Bizarre, Tranquil World Awaits in London’s Latest VR Artstravaganza

I’ve seen some weird and wonderful content in virtual reality (VR), from twisted ethereal landscapes to horrifying monstrosities you’d not want to meet in your nightmares. VR has managed to transcend so many aspects of entertainment I’m always curious as to where creators go next, with some of the more unexpected ideas coming from the artistic community. One of the biggest advocates in the space over the last few years is Vive Arts, returning once again with an exhibition that mixes multiple mediums.

Alienarium 5

Vive Arts has reunited with Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster for her solo exhibition Alienarium 5 at the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Hyde Park. It’s an exhibition that encompasses the artists’ 20-years of experimentation with ideas surrounding deep space, science fiction and the myriad possibilities of alien life.   

Stepping into the gallery you’re instantly presented with a bright, eye-catching Alienarium 5 neon sign, the use of neon signage a long-time favourite of Gonzalez-Foerster’s. The vibrant use of colour can be found throughout the exhibit, draped across the walls and floors; even hidden behind a selection of eyelets that fill your vision with cascading hair and a pungent, crisp perfume that I couldn’t quite place.

It was almost too easy to miss the carpet that curved around the foyer, taking inspiration from the planet Uranus with deep hues of blue gradually fading into vivid reds and yellows. In actuality, it’s a very sedate start to what’s to come, with the VR portion completing the whole ensemble.

Alienarium 5

Through the archway and into the Serpentine’s central gallery, if you’ve not been there before it’s an impressive domed ceiling encircled with lights at its centre, giving an even yet dramatic illumination to the artwork below. On the floor, was a selection of what looked like large recreations of books all carefully placed. These actually turned out to be cushions, enabling guests to sit down and take in the huge piece of artwork that encircled the space.

Partly space-themed with a giant image of the Earth dominating as you first enter, the sci-fi design becomes even more abundant with a collage of alien designs interspersed with imagery of people, all harking back to those 1950/60s glory days of space travel. It’s an impressive piece of work that you can keep coming back to spot areas you’d not noticed before. But I’m no art critic, I’m here for the VR and how Vive Arts and Gonzalez-Foerster have deployed the tech. It is worth remembering that many have not tried VR, especially a device like the Vive Pro 2 in use here, so Alienarium 5 could well be their first step into an immersive digital space.

That definitely seems to have been part of the thought process here, as there are five headsets placed on stools and I’m told to stay seated forwards. With no need to turn around and no controllers to worry about the VR portion of Alienarium 5 is a tranquil, almost meditative experience that doesn’t so much feel like you’re floating in space, more the ocean deep.

Alienarium 5

You embody an alien, a different creature for each headset. Coming in at around 9 minutes, each experience is like a visual dance, imagine a murmuration where thousands of starlings twist and churn almost magically in the sky. It’s quite captivating with both audible and visual cues drawing your attention around the space. As it turns out, during the sequence you’ll spot what looks like other unusual alien creatures which are in fact the other exhibition guests.

While I didn’t have time to try them all I did test two out, with significant differences between them. The first portrayed what seemed to be a shoal of fish flitting around my vision. Their movement random, I came away relaxed but not connected to the piece or with a desire to re-experience it. The second headset was entirely the opposite. Almost like static rain in neon blue, what set it apart was the gaze-based control, wherever I turned my head would make a tunnel through the undulating haze, altering the spatial audio to suit. A far more dynamic presentation, the time quickly disappeared as I played in the space, stepping away far more energised and appreciative of the artist’s work.

London always has some amazing art on display but if you’re looking for some a little more tech-savvy then Alienarium 5 is worth popping into. The exhibition runs until 4th September 2022.   

First Gameplay Trailer Arrives for VR Horror Propagation: Paradise Hotel

WanadevStudio, the French team behind the excellent rhythm-action title Ragnarock announced back in December 2021 that its next virtual reality (VR) project would expand the Propagation VR franchise. Called Propagation: Paradise Hotel, the studio has unveiled the first gameplay trailer showcasing the horrors that await.

Propagation: Paradise Hotel

While Propagation VR was a basic wave shooter set within an abandoned subway station, Propagation: Paradise Hotel is going to be a proper survival-horror adventure. In a zombie-filled experience, you step into the shoes of Emily Diaz who barricaded herself in the hotel’s kitchen after everyone started to get sick. After a couple of weeks, though, it’s time to leave and save your sister, finding out she’s alive after intercepting a radio message.

And so begins wandering the dimly lit corridors of the Paradise Hotel, uncovering horrors behind every door by the looks of things. WanadevStudios’ trailer showcases pre-alpha gameplay so some of the designs are likely to change but it gives a great sense of the overall atmosphere. The hallways are littered with dead bodies and blood strewn walls, flies buzz around the corpses and the quiet amplifies your footsteps.

You’ll be able to illuminate dark corners with a chest-mounted flashlight that can be detached for great versatility. This is an action-adventure so you’ll have access to weaponry, needing to search rooms for valuable resources such as ammo and batteries so the light remains lit.

Propagation: Paradise Hotel

There are plenty of standard VR elements you’d expect in Propagation: Paradise Hotel, from manual gun reloading to physically opening doors and peeking around corners. You’ll also need to be on guard for jump scares as the ferocious, skinless zombie at the end reminds gmw3 of the infamous red-head zombies from Resident Evil.

Propagation: Paradise Hotel is currently slated to arrive towards the end of 2022, supporting Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Check out the gameplay below and for further updates, keep reading gmw3.

Take The Last Taxi on Steam This May

Taxis are never just about getting from A to B, they’re small microcosms filled with interesting characters and their stories. Today, developer ZenFri Inc. has announced that its upcoming virtual reality (VR) title The Last Taxi will be pulling up to headsets on Steam at the end of May.

You play the very last human driver in this narrative-driven adventure, toiling away in a dystopian future where surveillance, automation and human modification run rife. Featuring a cast of over 80 characters, in The Last Taxi you must transport your passengers whilst engaging them in conversation but events take a turn when an anti-technology cult member leaves an undocumented baby in your cab.

Like any cab driver, if you keep your customers happy and chatty they’ll be more likely to tip, earning you more money to buy upgrades. These range from new tools to hijack cargo and hacking toll booths to enhancing customer experience. You’ll also need to keep them alive by avoiding environmental hazards and maximise those tips by managing malfunctioning equipment.

As mentioned, this is a surveillance state so taxis are fitted with mandatory listening devices. This means as your passengers talk and reveal personal dilemmas they may also talk about the darker workings of the megacity. There are harsh penalties if you don’t report a suspicious character to authorities and lucrative opportunities if you do. But some may not always be so easy to judge.

“We wanted to explore stories within an expansive post-collapse and environmentally ravaged world. The Last Taxi mirrors today’s climate of division and existential threats. With the art of conversation at its core, we leave all choices firmly in the player’s hands,” said Dee King, Co-Founder of ZenFri Inc. in a statement. “When a wounded cult member abandons a mysterious baby, a rarity even in the wealthiest parts, you’re thrown into an adventure that cuts across all levels of society and brings about choices that can change the future of humanity’s last city on Earth.”

The Last Taxi is currently scheduled to launch on Steam for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Valve Index on 31st May 2022, retailing for $29.99 USD/ €26.99 EUR/ £22.99 GBP. For further updates on the latest VR game releases keep reading gmw3.

Preview: Now There be Goblins – You Have my Hammer

Nobody likes goblins. They’re always getting into places, causing trouble, generally being a nuisance. I’ll tell you who really hates goblins; the king. As a blacksmith grafting for coin, apparently I’m on speaking terms with this smug-looking monarch. He commissioned me to craft a massive gold statue of him and the local goblins have taken a dislike to them. Or they want the gold. Either way, goblins are attacking, the king doesn’t like that and I have to defend the kingdom. I have no clue why we don’t have soldiers for this.

All I have are a shield and my trusty blacksmithing hammer. Thankfully I can build defences, which should clue you in on what genre Now There be Goblins falls into. This tower defence game plays like many others you will have seen or tried. The enemy enters an arena area and walks a predetermined path towards their goal, which is our failure point. As the hero, I build weapons and barricades to kill any and all goblins.

Across the opening levels I learn how to move around the playing area, plus how to select defence items. This early on, it’s the usual barricade that is placed on the paths to slow down the enemy, as well as a few weapons – crossbow, cannon and sharpshooter. These can be dotted around off the path to lay down damage. But you know this, I’m sure.

The goblins enter the kingdom in waves, variously armoured and kitted out with weapons. A highlight of Now There be Goblins is the ability to pick up the discarded weapons from the goblins, all of which feature differing damage stats and styles, such as bludgeoning or stabbing damage. It’s rather laughable to be standing behind a barrier, swinging both arms wildly to whack and stab horrible goblins.

Of course, in between waves placements can be repaired or upgraded, it’s all very much par for the course. Until the bosses show up, and then everything goes to hell. I was happily building items, looting corpses, defending the kingdom. I knew a boss was in this wave, but I underestimated them severely. They are huge, hulking enemies that seemingly know nothing except swinging a weapon and moving forward. I died. A lot.

However, even with those deaths, I was levelling up to unlock new weapons and items and slowly progress bit by bit. I began to admire the visuals and the wonderful little details that brought my role to life. I will happily write a paragraph about just the blacksmith hammer, which is attached to your arm via a chain. This means it can be thrown… and recalled. Like Thor with Mjolnir. I was lopping the hammer, snapping it back, catching it, taking a bit of a pose. It was glorious. 

There were a few graphical glitches from the chain – sometimes it stretched across the entire map, other times it glitched through the placements. But I still felt like a God. And that theme continues in the style of Now There be Goblins, the developers have used a slick cartoon style, with daft, overly large proportions and pops of colour. The weapons and defences feel weighty and look chunky.

I’m still slowly working my way through the campaign. This is an early access title, so it’ll keep receiving updates over time. And I’ll definitely keep coming back. Now There be Goblins has a really delightful gameplay loop, and while the bosses are scary and tough, they feel fair enough to return to the mission and try a new tactic next around. I’ll be back for those goblins, and to protect the kingdom, but I’ve got a Godlike hammer and a bad attitude.

Action-Packed Fracked Ziplines Onto PC VR This May

Last summer nDreams launched its most action-packed virtual reality (VR) title to date, the PlayStation VR exclusive Fracked. Well, today the studio has revealed Fracked will soon no longer be exclusive to one platform, with a PC VR launch date now scheduled for next month.


Fracked takes place in a remote mountain facility where you become the unlikely hero who stands between the Earth and an army of gun-wielding, interdimensional enemies. Stealth is not a requirement here, guns, speed and bravado are all you need, progressing from one horde of enemies to the next; causing a few explosions along the way.

With its bold art direction, Fracked’s gameplay is just the same, encouraging you to utilise the environment however you please. Use the grabbable cover system to your advantage and flank enemies, climb towers for a better vantage point or use the numerous zip lines to quickly reposition yourself on the battlefield. And then there are the skiing sections.

Our PlayStation VR review of Fracked gmw3 said: “nDreams is well versed in making highly polished VR titles and Fracked is no different. The art style is gorgeous, adding a comic book blend to the action playing out. And there are some wonderful ideas and mechanics employed.”


“It’s been fantastic to see the love that Fracked has received from players and critics alike since it’s PlayStation VR launch last year,” said David Corless, VP of Publishing at nDreams in a statement. “We’re excited to give new audiences the chance to experience the thrill of Fracked’s high-octane action as they fight to save the world!”

Fracked is set to arrive for SteamVR and Viveport compatible headsets Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Valve Index (Meta Quest 2 is supported via Cable/Air Link) on 5th May 2022. It’ll also hit the Oculus Rift store not long afterwards. For continued updates on Fracked and nDreams, keep reading gmw3.

Preview: Outlier – A Roguelite of Possibilities

It’s surprising to think that Joy Way used to be location-based entertainment (LBE) specialist PlatformaVR, transitioning into a full-time virtual reality (VR) studio a couple of years ago. During that time the team has released a selection of Steam Early Access titles with the latest to arrive being Outlier. This joins the ever-growing roguelite genre VR developers are loving at the moment, continually fighting and dying, trying to inch closer to the finish line whilst incrementally improving your stats.    


Outlier very much has this at the core of its DNA with a basic narrative to give it some structure. You’re the captain of a spaceship looking to find humanity a new home, along the way getting sucked into a black hole that imbues you with powers whilst offering a potential planet. However, that planet is being attacked by hostiles that need clearing out first, so with new said abilities you get to unleash a little mayhem.

As an Early Access release Outlier doesn’t offer many bells and whistles, to begin with. All the VR basics are present, smooth locomotion only, you can grab ledges to climb and guns can be housed over each shoulder (nothing on the hip). There’s no manual reloading, simply pop the gun near your hip to reload making for a quick arcade-style experience. Early on there seemed to be some inconsistency when it came to dropping the gun. Rather than popping it over my shoulder, simply letting it go generally left it there although on the odd occasion it seemed to auto-return. Ahh, the vagaries of an early access videogame.

Planetside, Outlier looks great, fighting through what look like ancient ruins and temples, giant monoliths stretching skywards with plenty of undulation in the level design; keeping most of the enemy encounters in small areas. Joy Way has also used a trick where the environment is entirely contained within canyons (so far at least), presumably because levels are procedurally generated. In any case, it doesn’t feel confined, with plenty of room to manoeuvre.   


And you’ll need to, the first opponents encountered are fast and deadly accurate with their throwing axes. It takes a moment to actually keep up and track their movements as they flit from side-to-side, unusually tricky for introductory foes. They’re actually a bit too erratic in all honesty and there were times where it felt easier to just run up and gun butt them, only to find I couldn’t! I’m also not a fan of the ragdoll effects when they die, definitely seems out of place in this style of VR experience.

Physical violence may have been off the cards but thankfully Outlier doesn’t just provide guns, you can unleash some telekinetic rock throwing. Thus you’ve got the option to dual wield two guns when you’ve found them, a gun and helpful rock or just go full-on Jean Grey and start hurling boulders around the place. Alas, you can’t just rip them out of the ground, only certain rocks and pots can be lobbed but even so, it makes Outlier physical, interactive and fun.

Now, as mentioned this is a roguelite which means gaining loads of useful stuff, death, losing all your stuff and then upgrading core abilities to go back at it. Outlier achieves this in a number of ways, the first being the in level buffs. Every so often you’ll come across a glowing pedestal with 2 or 3 items, usually 3 buffs or 1 buff and a gun. Buffs can range from improving your grab distance and walking speed to upping the number of times you can dash in succession or adding perks like Death from Above where you gain a 10% damage improvement when airborne.


These are all your temporary boons, the permanent ones come from killing enemies to gain some sort of magical energy. This is the good stuff, only usable onboard your spaceship once you’ve died. At the moment the ship doesn’t look as good as the rest of Outlier, very bland in its aesthetic and user interface. There’s also the less than inspiring voiceover for the story narration and gameplay tutorial. It’s not the only thing that needs some more polish whilst inside early access, enemy wall glitching and game crashes were two of the more prominent issues.

Outlier also seems to have been influenced (partially) by Joy Way’s biggest VR title Stride. The jump/dash mechanic takes a little getting used to, as it’s a physical flick. You have to hold the A button down then flick the controller in a direction, releasing the button at the same time. It is a gameplay fundamental learning to quickly dash sideways, backwards, or jump across chasms.

All of this combines to make Outlier an intriguing prospect. It could possibly become Joy Way’s biggest and baddest VR game to date, with some wicked looking enemy design – especially the boss – and variety when combining gems to upgrade yourself. However, this is the studios’ fourth early access videogame on Steam, begging the question as to whether they’ll all stay in this EA limbo or actually come to fruition. There are some excellent roguelite videogames available for VR headsets and Outlier could well join this group, eventually.

You can now Speedrun Your way Through Squingle

Squingle is one of those virtual reality (VR) videogames that has to be played to be really understood. Basically, it’s a psychedelic puzzle title where you have to guide revolving orbs through twisting liquid crystal mazes. If that wasn’t hard enough, Squingle Studios has just added a speedrun gameplay mode, truly testing your puzzle-solving skills.


Normally, Squingle is a fairly casual VR experience where you can relax and find your way through the 100 trippy levels. If you’ve already completed them and really love a challenge – or maybe love speedrunning videogames – then the addition of a speedrun timer might be just what you’re looking for.

Talking to gmw3 in an email regarding the idea behind the new speedrun mode Benjamin Outram of Squingle Studios explained: “I’ve always been fascinated by speedrunning since I saw a Technology Assisted Speedrun (TAS) of Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES. There is a small but active speedrunning community in VR – notably doing speedruns of Superhot VR, Moss, and Boneworks. Our VR game, Squingle, lends itself to trying to play quickly, almost like a platformer, and as an indie game studio talking with the speedrunning community seemed like not only a natural fit to the game, but a great way to support our players.

“A speedrunner going by ‘BlitzVR’, who is famous for a viral IGN video ‘Moss (VR) Developers React to 43 Minute Speedrun’, got in touch with an interest to set a score on Squingle,” Outram continues. “Having asked the community what features might help them, the biggest request is for an ‘in-game-clock’. This sets the standard by not relying on external timing equipment to time your run, making it less friction to record a speed run. So based on Blitz’ interest, I went about to implement a speedrun timer.”


However, this isn’t your ordinary gameplay mode you’ll suddenly see pop up in the main menu, it’s partially hidden – although still easy to access. All you need to do is turn ‘story mode’ to ‘OFF’ in the options. 

“This stops the main character appearing every ten levels (which would just waste time!). After every ‘epoch’ (group of 20 levels) – as long as you started at level 1 – the timer appears to show you your total time for that epoch. Assuming you have completed all the levels without going back to the level-select screen, or retried any levels, then your time for the whole game also gets presented at the credits at the end, as well as your scores (how many lizards and petals you collected).”

And that’s it, happy speedrunning through Squingle. If you’ve not tried it out yet you can find Squingle on Steam where there’s a free demo available and on Meta Quest’s App Lab. Oh, and by the way, Squingle is a Game Development World Championship (GDWC) finalist alongside the likes of A Township Tale and Maskmaker.

For all the latest updates on VR, keep reading gmw3.

The Beautiful Puzzle World of Mare is Coming to PC VR

2021 had some classic virtual reality (VR) videogames arrive including indie gems like Mare. The work of Visiontrick Media, a team based in Sweden and Japan, Mare offered a wonderfully imagined world and puzzles, even if it was a little short. Initially exclusive to Meta Quest, the studio has now confirmed Mare is coming to SteamVR later this month.


Since the Quest launch, Visiontrick Media has worked on making sure Mare fully utilises the extra power PC VR headsets can access. “The PC version will feature a whole new level of visual fidelity including real-time lightning among other improvements making it an even more engrossing experience to savour in virtual reality,” the studio notes in a statement.

Mare is set in a mysterious world that you view from overhead, controlling a mechanical bird from perch to perch. As you do so you encounter a young girl who’s seemingly lost and in need of your help. You then have to guide your new AI companion through a vast interlocking landscape, full of deadly traps and a few inhabitants.

Spanning eight chapters, Mare rolls from open puzzle to the next, slowly revealing its narrative as well as hidden secrets if you’re observant.


Reviewing the Meta Quest version of Mare, gmw3 said: “Mare is as an enchanting as it is bewildering. There’s nothing wrong with its vague narrative as that mystery is what keeps it interesting[…] but just because it is pretty doesn’t mean to say Mare forms a cohesive whole, feeling like it’s not quite reached its potential.”

Mare is scheduled to launch on SteamVR for PC VR headsets on 17th March 2022. Check out the new trailer below and for further updates on the latest VR games, keep reading gmw3.

Step Into HTC Vive’s New Viverse Metaverse Today

Last week HTC Vive presented its vision for the metaverse in a short video presentation and let’s just say it wasn’t exactly well-received. With Mobile World Congress 2022 (MWC) opening its doors for the first time in a while today, Vive has officially unveiled Viverse and the actual components that’ll contribute to the platform.

Viverse - Freemode

Much like Viveport, Viverse will be a hardware-agnostic platform, so you can enjoy it in virtual reality on a device like the new Vive Flow, on a PC, a tablet or even your smartphone. Accessing Viverse is as easy as opening up a browser, and that’s exactly how attendees at MWC have been demoing it.

Key to accessing Viverse is Vive Browser and Vive Connect. As you might expect, Vive Browser is a new VR-based web browser that supports Web3 login, WebXR and WebAssembly, whilst Vive Connect serves as a cross-platform hub from where you can access the various worlds, games and apps that make up Viverse. Another important aspect is Vive Guardian, a tool specific to Vive Flow so that parents, guardians and teachers can control what youngsters view using the device.

As mentioned, Viverse has been designed around an open ecosystem so HTC Vive has partnered with the likes of Engage, VRChat, Museum of Other Realities, and more. And what would a metaverse platform be without avatars and crypto? The new Vive Avatar tool allows the creation of one singular avatar to be used across the Viverse sphere plus you can manage and store NFTs and digital assets using WalletConnect.


Viverse is the next chapter of our Vive Reality vision. Vive is our brand and means ‘life’, and Verse refers to the chapters of life. Viverse provides seamless experiences, reachable on any device, anywhere, and is enabled by the virtual and augmented reality, high-speed connectivity, AI, and blockchain technologies that HTC has invested in for several years. We invite partners to join us on his fantastic journey to the internet of presence,” said Cher Wang, Co-Founder and Chairwoman at HTC in a statement. 

You can access Viverse today via an Android device or select HTC Vive headsets like Vive Flow. For continued updates on the metaverse, keep reading gmw3.

HTC’s Vision of the Metaverse is Heavy on Buzzwords, Light on Substance

HTC released a video showing off its vision of the metaverse, a reflection of what the company thinks virtual spaces will look like in the near future. And… it’s not a great look.

Some ideas are inevitable. Slim and light XR glasses capable of fluidly serving up novel and meaningful interactions are basically the holy grail in tech right now, with Apple, Meta, Google, Qualcomm, and many more laying down the groundwork to one day make them a reality. When that will happen, no one can say.

HTC’s most recent concept video isn’t at fault for shooting for the stars. It is, after all, only a showcase for what should be outwardly neat concepts, but it unfortunately manages to land pretty hard on its face as it wildly strings together some of its favorite buzzwords and concepts that feel plucked straight from trending hashtags. It feels, well, like a parody, raising the question of whether HTC’s drably conventional futurism is actually doing more harm than good.

Meta: A Polarizing Trendsetter

Add VR, AR, and AI together and you have the fundamental recipe for the metaverse. That’s at least what Meta laid out in its futuristic concept video as it makes its transition from traditional social networks to a self-described “metaverse company.”

Meta’s video, which it released during its Connect developer conference in October, is less a roadmap and more a marketing barrage—like a hundred Magic Leap ‘whale’ moments smooshed into one.

It’s supposed to get you excited, but also open up a range of interactions to an audience that may have heard of AR or VR, but may not really know what either means functionally.

Okay, a playdough-faced Mark Zuckerberg isn’t exactly what dreams are made of, but you have to give credit where credit is due: it looks pretty amazing, even if the smug, corporate cleanliness of it all doesn’t more than resemble the beginning of a Black Mirror episode. It at least makes the effort to demonstrate that the metaverse will one day let you do almost anything you can imagine.

Follow the Leader

Now toss in some of HTC’s favorite concepts from the last few years: 5G, blockchain, sprinkle in some NFTs, reduce the production budget by a whole bunch and you’ve got a treacly sweet dollar store knock-off of Meta’s hype video that feels like it’s more concerned with lining up the right buzzwords than offering an honest-to-goodness vision of the future.

Yes, we know the future will be cool, but is the future… VIVERSE? You be the judge.

That’s not only my hot take. YouTube may have removed the counter on its ‘dislike’ button, but a simple browser extension reveals that HTC’s video is currently sitting around a 3:1 dislike ratio, which isn’t typical for any of the company’s videos. You might chalk that up to residual metaverse hate, courtesy of Meta and not HTC itself, but… well, that should have been preventable by not making a remarkably worse, less demonstrative version.

What’s confusing—besides how you actually pronounce ‘VIVERSE’, or that the future is somehow just a standard version of VIVE XR Suite, or that you have to press a ‘CHEERS’ button to drink, or that you pay for a glass of wine in your house with Bitcoin, or that you can actually hug an entirely photoreal version of your grandma then buy her a cat NFT and she doesn’t even ask why the hell you would waste your money on that… sorry, lost myself there—the confusing thing is how HTC plans on creating this future for anyone, let alone the more outwardly mature, less gaming-focused enterprise segment it’s been courting the past few years.

To think, HTC and Oculus were once competitors back in the early days of consumer VR. Since the launch of Quest in 2019 though, HTC has progressively shied away from appealing to consumers outside of China because it didn’t (more likely couldn’t) invest the same heaps of cash that Meta has in a standalone app ecosystem for its own standalone Focus headsets. Ever since, it’s been pumping out higher-cost headsets for enterprise and arcades outside of China, and quietly maintaining its own PC VR app store Viveport (which has a worse selection of games than Steam, but at a subscription price so you can actually play a bunch of great VR games at a significantly cheaper price than buying them individually).

But until we see HTC more broadly appeal to consumers though with its hardware and standalone app ecosystem, it’s hard to take the company’s vision of the metaverse any more seriously than its NFT marketplace—a quickly produced, low upkeep project that is more flash than boom. And that’s a sad thought for a company that still has the ability to deliver legitimately great VR hardware, and simultaneously hasn’t perpetrated a steady stream of privacy scandals over the years. The Vive XR Suite isn’t bad either, but it’s not the future—it’s the now.

Granted, these perfectly integrated XR futures aren’t coming anytime soon, and no one company will likely be able to make them a reality alone—no matter how slick the hype video, or how buzzy the word. Still, that doesn’t mean the immersive web of tomorrow will be a neutral playground that all companies are equally building towards. If the mobile market is any indication, we can at least expect to see early efforts divided along product ecosystems.

And in the meantime, even if the top headset producers imbue their next device with all of the wishlist items, like eye-tracking, facial haptics, varifocal lenses, all-day batteries, wide FOV displays—it’s probable that none of these things will impress anyone if they aren’t already paying attention to the space. This may mean most people are still a few device generations away from getting their first VR headset, and decidedly more for an AR headset.

So you might ask, what exactly is HTC and Meta selling with these far out concept videos? It actually may be more about what they’re buying: time.

Do you think these sort of concept videos do more harm than good? Let us know your thoughts below.

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