The anticipation surrounding E3 2018 seemed to be building well before the event. This was not different from years before, but this year some long-lost cult favorites were set to return - and major studios like EA and Bungie attempted to build bridges after major mistakes from 2017.
E3 2018 was a huge year for gamers. But not for virtual reality.
VR title announcements were lost in the sea of fan favorites and it was felt at the E3 expo floor, with the number of companies demoing VR content dropping to 50 from 126 in 2017.
For VR, E3 was all about original content or small add-on titles.
Gaming studios have been focused on releasing shorter VR experiences or arcade-style experiences meant to be repeated again and again. With few exceptions, there is a lack of epic AAA titles that entice new adoption. This is due in large part to the lack of VR compatibility at launch among popular gaming series.
Though new IPs can showcase originality and creativity in a new medium, it is hard to convince consumers to invest in a new platform without major announcements. Though impressive displays and hardware developments are great, consumers care more about the content available than the fidelity of a display or latency of tracking. Gamers will continue to invest in platforms that support the content they love.
Esports can greatly help a title gain popularity, especially an original IP. Esports had a strong presence at E3 this year, from celebrity charity tournaments to live gameplay at esport arenas. Some of these efforts fell flat with in-person attendee interest but thrived through streaming on Twitch. Though Intel's VR Challenger League is finding success and VR gaming is primed for esports adoption, the popularity of VR esports is finding little traction with the general consumer.
VR tournaments do not currently have a home, or large support from streamers. The esports community is very organic in nature, though support from celebrities can spur a phenomenon. In the end, VR esports needs to be more watchable, which may not be solved in the same way current content has found success.
VR, as it is now, is still developing. Headsets are currently an accessory to PCs, gaming consoles, or smartphones, but the beginning of a new wave is coming, driven by standalone headsets. The all-in-one devices showcase VR for what it truly is: a new visual computing platform. Gaming is a portion of this, but VR will continue to offer more compelling use cases for consumers beyond gaming.
Though the drawback seen at E3 from 2017 to 2018 is significant, this doesn't mean VR is canceled. There is promise. VR is expanding in many areas including the out of home sector.
E3 will become a bigger factor for VR after significant consumer adoption is reached and AAA gaming studios like Ubisoft, EA, and Bethesda release VR compatibility at launch for their biggest franchises. Until then, VR will continue to be the sideshow.