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Don’t buy the Meta Quest Pro for gaming. It’s a metaverse headset first

Last week’s Meta Connect started off promising on the gaming front. Viewers got release dates for Iron Man VR, an upcoming Quest game that was previously a PS VR exclusive, as well as Among Us VR. Meta, which owns Facebook, also announced that it was acquiring three major VR game studios — Armature Studio, Camouflaj Team, and Twisted Pixel — although we don’t know what they’re working on just yet.

Unfortunately, that’s where the Meta Connect’s gaming section mostly ended. Besides tiny glimpses and a look into fitness, video games were not the show’s focus. Instead, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wanted to focus on what seemed to be his company’s real vision of VR’s future, which involves a lot of legs and a lot of work with the Quest Pro, a mixed reality headset that’ll cost a whopping $1,500.

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It’s a notable narrative shift for the tech, one that might leave video game players confused about if VR is for them anymore. When Oculus first started making a splash in the 2010s with its headset prototypes and, eventually, its Oculus Rift system, many wondered if it was finally time for video games’ VR dreams to come to fruition. Things actually seemed to be on their way at a slow and flawed pace. However, ever since Meta bought Oculus in 2014, it’s been slowly integrating it into its own big-picture goal of going beyond just being a mere social network and becoming a place where people just exist. And that seemingly means deemphasizing video games as a core goal of the tech … at least in Meta’s world, with the Quest Pro as its signifier.

What was Meta Connect missing?

We already knew that Meta was diving deep into the metaverse (it’s in the name, after all). Horizon Worlds, the company’s metaverse app, is technically a video game. Its website touts cartoonish social hangouts, concerts with the likes of Post Malone, and the chance to build your own world. If you didn’t know any better, it would look like a straight-up Fortnite competitor.

But according to executives’ messaging, that’s not the software’s true potential. In 2021, Meta introduced Horizon Workrooms — just put on your headset, create your avatar, and meet with your co-workers in a virtual conference room. Sure, you can do all of that with videoconferencing software like Google Meet or Zoom, but what if you can do it in virtual reality? Isn’t that the future?

A Meta Connect 2022 screenshot showing Mark Zuckerberg avatar.

The Connect centered around this idea by having the new Quest Pro take up the bulk of the presentation. This headset has some impressive technology that allows the user to interact with elements in the real world while in VR. However, it costs $1,500 and is set to release this month. It’s an unbelievable move considering even Zuckerberg admitted to The Verge that the technology is still years away from being “fully mature.”

Based on the Meta Connect and subsequent smaller announcements, there are very few experiences that show off the Quest Pro’s improved passthrough technology. I Expect You to Die, the VR cooperative game, is getting an expansion called Home Sweet Home. It’s described as a “mixed reality mini mission” where players will interact with real-world objects while using the headset. There was also a quick demo showcasing Beat Saber being played in mixed reality, but it didn’t show off anything novel or unique to the Quest Pro.

Video games, or rather, video game experiences, felt like an afterthought in Meta’s grand plan. Beyond Among Us VR getting a release date and the announcement that Iron Man VR was hitting Oculus for the first time, the other news bits emphasized metaverse-like features. Population: One, a VR battle royale, is getting a sandbox mode, allowing players to create their own maps and game modes.

Other interactive Quest experiences that got airtime were related to fitness. Exercise is great for VR because the headset allows for different types of movement than a user would normally get working out from home. It can also make exercise more visually appealing by allowing users to float through gorgeous landscapes or box against more realistic opponents. Meta also announced its Quest Active Pack would be released this year, giving people accessories specifically for working out in VR.

Meta Quest Xbox Cloud Gaming

Finally, there’s Microsoft. CEO Satya Nadella popped up during the Connect to reveal that Xbox Cloud Gaming will be coming to the Quest soon, although we don’t have a release date just yet. However, this was a footnote for the rest of Microsoft’s news, which involved bringing Teams, Office, and other Windows applications to the Quest.

The Oculus (now Meta) brand started with hardware made for game developers, and the Oculus Store is filled with games and apps that regular players can use with their headsets. With the Meta rebrand and the upcoming Quest Pro’s focus on enterprise, it feels like gaming is becoming less of a focus, even amid some studio acquisitions.

Games vs. the metaverse

Facebook was always a social platform, and according to Zuckerberg, that’s why the company has pivoted so hard into building its metaverse. He feels like it’ll be the future of the internet, the next step from browser windows and 2D screens.

“The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post soon after Meta’s rebrand. “Feeling truly present with another person is the ultimate dream of social technology.”

The big reason why Facebook bought Oculus in the first place was to use VR to expand social connectivity online. But games still played a big role in that. “Oculus’ mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences. Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate,” Zuckerberg said in a statement following Meta’s purchase of Oculus.

“But this is just the start. After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences.”

A model poses with a Meta Quest Pro over a colorful background.

Games are, of course, still a part of Meta’s structure. Video games and other Quest Store apps also still bring in money — $1.5 billion to date, with one-third of the titles grossing more than $1 million in sales (via TechCrunch). However, company messaging says the future is defined by two things: Horizon Worlds and the Quest Pro. And both show that the metaverse isn’t ready for prime time.

While Meta says using Horizon Worlds for meeting up with co-workers will be the future of work, a report from The Verge says the app is so buggy that Meta employees refuse to use it despite being told to by higher-ups. The Quest Pro is another bizarre move from the company. It costs $1,500 for a headset (have I mentioned that already?) and doesn’t have many features separate from the much cheaper Quest 2. Based on initial impressions, its weight is more balanced, it has an improved display and controllers, and it still works with Oculus games. Of course, the big showcase is for passthrough, and while it goes a long way to helping users feel less isolated in VR — and can be used for some unique gaming experiences — it’s not worth the hefty price tag Meta is charging if you use VR more casually. For players who are already spending hundreds of dollars on consoles and games, the existence of the Quest Pro is not only unnecessary, but exclusionary.

I’m not disputing that VR has applications outside of gaming, including in the medical and automotive fields. There are professional areas where VR and AR can be useful. But VR gaming has only been growing. Transparency Market Research expects it to grow by 32.3% by 2031, while Zippia estimates the market will increase from $7.7 billion to $26.9 billion by 2027. Meta was able to corner the consumer VR market with the cordless and affordable Quest 2. With its active move away from consumer-friendly video games with the Quest Pro, we’re left with the upcoming PlayStation VR2, the expensive Valve Index, and other lesser-known headsets to fill the void.

The future of Meta and gaming isn’t looking good

In response to criticism about its long-term pivot toward virtual workspaces, Zuckerberg and other executives have said this is just the first stage in a long-term, multiyear plan to remake the internet. Zuckerberg himself said that the metaverse is the internet’s “next chapter.”

But the company’s messaging has been all over the place, especially regarding how video games fit into that future. Of course, a lot can be said about how it’s discussed the metaverse regarding work, too. But considering virtual reality has seen a lot of use in games, and is only poised to grow with the release of the PS VR2, it seems odd — albeit not surprising — that Meta would give it the bare amount of attention at an annual presentation. For a company that wants to bring people together, Meta is focusing a lot on work, buying digital clothes, legs (which, as we found out, aren’t as ready as the presentation made it seem), and Microsoft Office, while missing out on one of the biggest ways people socialize in the 21st century. Instead of releasing $1,500 headsets with no practical applications or even great tech demos, Meta should take a look at what made the technology so great in the first place and not alienate a huge part of its audience.

Despite the dreams of VR users who saw it as the next frontier for video games, reality is currently saying otherwise.

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star wars tales from the galaxys edge psvr2 interview ilmxlab starwarstalesee screenshot c 3po and r2 d2

When ILMxLAB learned about the PlayStation VR2, Director Jose Perez III thought it was a "no-brainer" for the studio to bring the Oculus Quest game Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge to the new headset.
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Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge - Enhanced Edition | Official Trailer | PS VR2
PlayStation VR2's launch and its first wave of games are nearly upon us, and Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge Enhanced Edition is one of those titles. This is a make-or-break time for VR, which is still struggling to move into the mainstream but could become more popular if Sony's headset can offer a compelling and accessible virtual reality experience. Ahead of its release, Digital Trends spoke to Director Jose Perez III and Producer Harvey Whitney from ILMxLAB to learn about the process of crafting one of these critical "no-brainer" launch games and PlayStation VR2 will ultimately stand when it comes to the future of VR gaming.
The power of PlayStation VR2
Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge was originally released for Meta Quest VR headsets in November 2020. It's set on the planet of Batuu, which people also explore at Dinsey parks, and follows a Droid Technician who gets caught in the middle of a grander fight against the First Order after crash-landing on the planet. At the time, it was meant with decent reviews and only got better as its story was completed and expanded with the Last Call DLC.
After getting the "Enhanced Edition" of the game for PlayStation VR2 greenlit, ILMxLAB actually had to go and make it. As the team was dealing with new hardware for the first time, producer Harvey Whitney thought it was good that the team's first project on PlayStation VR2 was an enhanced version of an existing game.
"Early on, knowing that we already had the content that was created for the original, that changes things quite a bit," Whitney tells Digital Trends. "We're not redeveloping the story and coming up with all of that. We just had that opportunity to work as a team and ask, 'What do we really push here, and where are the changes that we want to make, and what we can do to really take advantage of this hardware?'"

The VR space is full of different headsets with unique specs, with the much higher specs of the PS VR2 standing out. The PlayStation VR2 sports some impressive specs compared to its VR peers, displaying content in a 4000x2030 HDR format at a 90Hz or 120Hz frame rate. Plus, games have the PS5's power, spatial, and brand new Sense controllers to take advantage of, rather than the 2013 console and 2010 motion controls that limited the original PlayStation VR.
PlayStation VR2 supports Roomscale, Sitting, and Standing play styles, which added more complexity as Tales from the Galaxy's Edge supports all three. Thankfully, Perez III that bringing Tales from the Galaxy's Edge to PlayStation VR2 was relatively manageable because of how impressive the system's specs were.
"A lot of the development processes are similar [to other VR platforms]," Perez III says. "We're still working inside of Unreal, and we're doing a lot of those same processes. But we don't have to look at performance quite as much as we do on some of the other devices, so we're able to open up a lot of things or not be as concerned about certain things. That comes with better hardware."
Better hardware, better games
Looking at the biggest games of the PlayStation VR2 launch window lineup, the visuals of titles like Horizon Call of the Mountain and the VR modes of Resident Evil Village and Gran Turismo 7 are impressive. In our discussion, Whitney also made it quite clear that one of the real advantages of working on this remaster was not having to worry about strict limitations on the visuals or even the audio. "We got lucky in the sense that there's a lot more to PlayStation VR2 that we hadn't had previously," Whitney says. "We could really push the graphics and make it shine. But then there were also some other things that came into play. We totally redid the audio, it sounds amazing."

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Isaac Clarke stands in a dark room in Dead Space.

The video game industry has remake fever. While the idea of redoing a classic game is nothing new (see something as old as 1993’s Super Mario All-Stars), we’re currently experiencing a wave of remakes as developers revisit some of the best games of the 2000s and beyond. Last year we got The Last of Us Part I and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy Reunion, while 2023 will see games like Resident Evil 4 getting a full redo hot on the heels of Dead Space. Like a Dragon: Ishin, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-boot Camp, Silent Hill 2, System Shock … the list seemingly grows with every passing month.

With so many remakes filling up 2023’s game release calendar, I find myself asking a simple question: Why? That’s not a cynical question directed at the overall concept of remakes, but rather one that’s worth asking on an individual project level. Why is 2023 the right moment to reboot a series? What will this remake do to deepen my understanding of the original game? Are more modern graphics enough to justify a retread into a 15-year-old game that still plays well by today’s standards, or would that time and money have been better spent moving forward?

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With Valiant Hearts: Coming Home, Netflix finds its video game voice
The playable characters of Valiant Hearts: Coming Home all standing together.

As we are in the earliest stages of Netflix’s foray into the games, the company is still trying to discover what a “Netflix game” really feels like. We’ve seen ports of fun console beat ’em ups and enjoyable puzzle games, but I don't feel that those really define the platform’s emerging identity. Valiant Hearts: Coming Home, on the other hand, does. A sequel to a 2014 narrative adventure game set during World War I, it's a thoughtful and emotional journey that naturally reflects some of the film and TV content available on Netflix.
Valiant Hearts: Coming Home | Official Teaser Trailer | Netflix
It’s both highly educational and a solid sequel to one of Ubisoft’s most underrated games. Like Before Your Eyes, narrative is a clear priority, as is the distinct visual style that would work even if this was a traditional animated show. Netflix is known for evolving prestige TV and defining what storytelling in a streaming-focused series could be, so it would benefit from giving its exclusive games a similar focus. Valiant Hearts: Coming Home might not be a perfect game, but it’s a solid example of what a premier Netflix game could look like in the future.
War stories
Valiant Hearts: Coming Home, like its predecessor Valiant Hearts: The Great War, is a narrative-focused adventure game that hops between several stories from soldiers (and a medic) who served during World War I. Familiarity with the first game is helpful, as some characters reappear, but not necessary as the sequel tells a new story mainly focused on the Harlem Hellfighters, a group that fought with the French after the U.S. joined the conflict. It’s a story about the horrors of war and the family and friendships that wither through it all that focuses more on human stories rather than the bloody combat that games typically like to highlight. 
While its story doesn’t feel quite as intertwined as The Great War’s, Coming Home is still enlightening, shining light on parts of the war that aren’t typically covered in your standard history class. I’d even recommend it as a good entry point for kids learning about World War I, especially because the game features plenty of collectible objects and facts that allow players to learn more about the battle. Like the best content on Netflix, it’s a creatively rich and additive experience.
It does all that with a minimalist style, as its characters speak in pantomime, only saying a word or two as a narrator eventually cuts in to fill in narrative blanks or give context on the state of the war. While it might seem disrespectful to represent such a brutal war in a cartoonish manner, the horrific moments stand out all the more clearly as a result. One particularly memorable set piece doesn’t contain any dialogue. It has the player walking across the bottom of the sea as you see bodies and ships from the Battle of Jutland sink to the seafloor. It’s equally awe-inspiring and horrifying, bolstered by Coming Home’s distinct visual style.

The gorgeous 2D art is colorful, looks hand-drawn, and almost feels kid-friendly despite how grave the subject matter it’s portraying is. Netflix is home to some great animation, so it would also make sense for that artistry to apply to its games. On the gameplay front, Coming Home is comparatively simple. Players use touch controls to easily walk around, climb, and interact with objects throughout the game to solve simple puzzles. Occasionally, some minigames with unique mechanics, like treating and patching up soldiers’ wounds, spice up the game. It is approachable in design and never particularly complicated, but that also means the gameplay never gets in the way of its storytelling and art.
The biggest downside to is that it’s regularly interrupted by loading screens. Even though they were very brief on my Google Pixel 7XL, they dampened some scenes’ artistic and emotional flow.
What makes a Netflix game? 
Valiant Hearts: Coming Home is a beautiful narrative-focused game that feelsat home on Netflix. It demonstrates how titles with compelling stories can be just as engaging on a phone as they are on PC and consoles. That mentality is a perfect match for a platform that made a name for itself mostly through serialized, story-driven TV shows and movies, and now also offers games with strong stories like Desta: The Memories Between, Before Your Eyes, and Immortality. 

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