Speaking during a panel at SXSW Gaming, EA CEO Andrew Wilson gave a glimpse into how his company is forming plans to jump into virtual reality in the future. He believes that it is more important to research how people will use VR in the future rather than base the business model on how video games are currently distributed through consoles or other current means.
VR is a whole new tool that doesn't fit any of the models for how we currently play games.
"When we think about making games today, we think less about the technology or the means of experiencing the game, and we think more about the modality of play," he briefly explained. "So, how are you trying to interact with that game?"
"There's the 'lean back' modality, which is, I'm sitting in my living room across from an 80-inch TV, 7.1 surround sound, and I want high-def, high fidelity, highly immersive entertainment. That's the first modality that we have to sort of fulfill for games.
The second is the 'lean in' modality; that's kind of the PC type, where you have a lot of drive for shooters, RPGs and RTS-type games. Irrespective of what computer is driving it, there's this proximity you have to the experience and that's the style you want to play that.
The third is the 'lean over,' that mobile modality, whether it's a phone or a tablet, but this idea of 'I'm here and I'm playing like this,'"
To Wilson, these three ways to approach a game are ingrained into the industry right now, and virtual reality will need an all new fourth style of play to make it become a success.
"When I look at any of the VR devices, I look at that not in terms of 'What is that device going to deliver,' but a desire for gamers to have a different type of modality — the 'Get In' type of modality, right."
I've dabbled with a few virtual reality games, and I'm inclined to agree with him. Our current models for playing games will not work. When I strap a device to my head and pull the goggles down over my eyes, I don't feel like I'm playing a video game, but something entirely new. Something that might be exciting, something I don't really prefer over what is already available to me now. Something I have yet to be convinced is worth my money for long standing usage.
So far, virtual reality has been a fun gimmick, but EA and other publishers must find a way to make it as enticing as a $60 video game I can play on my huge TV or $30 handheld game I can play on my Nintendo 3DS. Right now, I don't see it yet.
Wilson also needs to accommodate for the many gamers that might suffer from a "Get Into the Bathroom to Vomit Your Guts Out" modality, because that's another unfortunate side effect I've suffered so far. Motion sickness is not fun kids.