On the one hand, this standalone VR hardware is probably more powerful than any of the best VR headsets currently available. On the other hand, it costs significantly more than its rivals and does not yet include any software that is absolutely necessary to support its impressive specs. However, now that the first visionOS beta has launched, VR app developers may be able to assist in changing this.
I talked to the developers of some of the best virtual reality games, including Purple Yonder, Mighty Coconut, and Schell Games, about the Apple VR headset and the kinds of projects they might want to make for it because the software will be so important to the Vision Pro’s success. Additionally, it turns out that Apple’s cutting-edge hardware has both advantages and disadvantages.
Every developer I talked to about the Vision Pro started by agreeing with Charlie Amis of Schell Games, the team behind games like Among Us VR and I Expect You To Die. The validation this device provides for all of our efforts excites me. VR has long been supported by these game developers and the fans of their games; However, despite all that Meta and hardware manufacturers like Sony and HTC have accomplished, some outsiders continue to dismiss VR as a fad.
All of the critics are paying for their lies now that Apple—one of the most well-known tech companies, if not the most well-known—has entered the VR market. Although Apple has produced a few flops (Newton and the HomePod, to name two examples), its successful innovations have unquestionably shaped the consumer technology landscape. As a result, everyone needs to pay attention if Apple is making moves in virtual reality. It doesn’t appear to be just entering the space; rather, it appears to be going all-in and diving headfirst into the deep end.
In order to demonstrate precisely what VR can do, the incredibly powerful Vision Pro will be available in 2024. Toward the end of 2024 or 2025, two additional gadgets, one of which includes a more cost-effective option, are slated to arrive shortly thereafter. Individuals I addressed felt Apple plainly maintains that the Vision Ace and its replacements should turn out to be essential for its center arrangement, and they’re hopeful about what this commitment will mean for the VR space.
One of their hopes is that the Vision Pro will encourage more people to try virtual reality, but not in the traditional sense. The developers I spoke with acknowledged that the device is not affordable for a large number of people due to its $3,499 (approximately £2,800 / AU$5,300) price, though many could still get the chance to try it out and fall in love with immersive experiences.
A few developers pointed out that Apple’s physical stores in numerous major cities around the world are a significant advantage. They wouldn’t believe it if the company didn’t use some of its internal space to create dedicated VR testing areas. After giving the Vision Pro a try, even if they don’t want to spend $3,500 on a headset, they might buy an Oculus Quest 2 for $300, £300, or AU$509.99 or another headset that doesn’t have some of the Vision Pro’s innovations.
Having said that, the innovative features and design of the Apple Pro have developers intrigued, but they are also somewhat of a double-edged sword.
When compared to its rivals, the Vision Pro’s use of hand-tracking is a significant departure; According to our knowledge, the box does not include any controllers. In addition, it will be a brand-new hand-tracking system that, in contrast to other virtual reality systems, uses eye-tracking to create a more precise and user-friendly system. This really intends that regardless of designers having existing VR programming that would be ideal for the Apple Vision Ace, porting it over won’t be a basic errand.
Lucas Martell and Don Carson of Mighty Coconut, creators of the must-play Walkabout Mini Golf, are already attempting to devise solutions. During our conversation, they suggested starting with the upcoming Walkabout iOS release rather than the VR one. The first visionOS beta demonstrated that porting a basic iOS app to Apple’s VR operating system is relatively simple. The app’s touch-control menus could be modified to support the Vision Pro’s hand-tracking, and Martell joked that the headset could track a wooden spoon held by players and translate its movement into virtual reality for the virtual golf club.
At the same time, some creators are unsure whether the juice will be worth the squeeze. Developers should have ported their games to PlayStation VR 2 when it came out because the first version of Sony’s headset was a success and would likely be as well. In addition, the layout of its controllers is very similar to that of the Quest 2, Pico 4, and other VR headsets. It is not yet clear whether Apple’s headset will have a large enough user base to justify the developers’ effort, so porting titles to it will likely require more effort due to its unique setup.
Additionally, it is unclear whether VR gaming will appeal to the Vision Pro audience. The team behind Little Cities and Synapse, Purple Yonder, noted that the Vision Pro is marketed as a platform for spatial computing. The headset, which will enable you to be productive, watch movies, and play games on a large virtual screen, is compared in Apple’s Vision Pro introduction video to a PC and a conventional home entertainment system. Immersive experiences were mentioned, but more as a way to improve these augmented reality apps than as an alternative to a dedicated virtual reality experience, such as what these game developers offer.
As a result, developers may want to develop new applications that take advantage of Vision Pro’s increased processing power and mixed-reality focus rather than porting software that already exists to it.
Even if the Vision Pro isn’t a big hit with fans and doesn’t work well for the games these developers want to make, they seem eager to get their hands on a few so they can at least use it to work on games for other platforms.
Apple’s technology focuses a lot on the creative industries, as evidenced by products like the upcoming Apple Mac Studio M2 (2023) and the iPad’s recent release of Apple’s video and audio editing software. However, if you want to create an immersive, three-dimensional environment that players can explore, working on flat, two-dimensional screens isn’t always the best option. I was informed that many of these creative projects begin with VR sketches, which the game designers can easily explore in first person.
The Vision Pro’s powerful specs could entice them to shift more of their production into VR, provided that the visionOS platform receives the necessary software support, according to the developers. They could design, create, test, and launch a complete game without ever taking off the headset, rather than only drawing basic VR sketches before moving over to a PC.
The Vision Pro’s commercial success is still up in the air, but in the developers’ eyes, it is already a winner, and the 2024 release date is too soon for them.