Batman Arkham Shadow shows that nothing is ever good enough for 'fans'

Batman as generated by Meta AI holding a PS5 controller, wearing a Meta Quest 3 headset
(Image credit: Meta AI / Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

After nearly a decade in the shadows, a brand new Batman Arkham game was finally announced this past week. Fans salivated at the idea of being able to play Batman again after so many years — especially after the disappointment that was Suicide Squad — but this upcoming release changed one major thing: it was a VR-only game.

What transpired is one of the more juvenile things I've seen in the video game industry lately — something that's saying a lot, given the behavior you can find from fanboys and forum warriors roaming social media. As of this writing, the trailer for Batman: Arkham Shadow has over 1.6 million views, 31K likes, and 110K dislikes.

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In his weekly column, Android Central Senior Content Producer Nick Sutrich delves into all things VR, from new hardware to new games, upcoming technologies, and so much more.

The comments are filled with the notion that a VR Batman game is the worst idea of all time and that WB will blame fans when it doesn't sell well. The problem with this logic is that Warner Brothers isn't paying the bill this time around. This is a first-party Oculus Studios game, funded entirely by Meta and developed by the folks behind the superb Iron Man VR, one of the best Meta Quest games you can play today.

For some reason, a subset of gamers thinks that the existence of VR games means that non-VR games will cease to exist if VR continues to grow the way it has. We've seen this sort of nonsense before back in the Wii days, where "hardcore gamers" on forums regularly complained about "waggle games" and how they were poisoning traditional gaming.

They were wrong then and they're wrong now. There's plenty of room for every niche and interest in the massive video game market, and it's just one of many reasons why VR isn't a replacement for flat games. It's just a new way to game.

Real fans wanted

Batman: Arkham Knight

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)

Batman: Arkham Shadow is one of the more prominent upcoming Meta Quest 3-exclusive games and it showcases the continued interest in creating AAA-tier experiences for VR headsets. But criticism from "fans" of the Arkham series has been utterly tone-deaf and uneducated.

The existence of Arkham Shadow has no bearing on Rocksteady's development of a new non-VR Arkham game. Rocksteady is the developer of the original Batman Arkham games, which were all published (and paid for) by WB. Likewise, other high-profile upcoming Meta Quest games like Metro Awakening and Alien: Rogue Incursion are all developed by VR-only developers and funded by VR publishers.

In other words, VR development is a silo that operates on its own. It's not impeded or affected by non-VR game development, and it isn't somehow taking away a new entry in a series from fans who just want more of the same thing on a new system.

VR development is a silo that operates on its own. It's not impeded or affected by non-VR game development and isn't preventing publishers from making new non-VR versions of games like Batman.

These games quite literally wouldn't exist at all if it weren't for headsets like the Meta Quest 3. There was never a time when any of the aforementioned games were being developed as a non-VR game and were somehow switched to being VR-only somewhere along the lines.

Iron Man VR screenshot from the Meta Quest 2

(Image credit: Camouflaj)

All of this makes me wonder if these so-called "fans" are actually fans at all. As a fan of Star Wars, I jumped at the idea of being able to wield a Lightsaber myself instead of just watching some generic character on a TV do it. Actually having a chance to be Tony Stark in Iron Man VR and fly around in the suit was downright incredible and a literal dream come true in every way.

So, wouldn't true fans jump at the opportunity to finally be able to say "I'm Batman" while wearing the suit and beating up bad guys in the streets of Gotham themselves? I certainly would think so.

Praying for sanity from fanboys is never a winning battle, but it would be nice to see a little more thought put behind the words and actions of trigger-happy gamers.

Praying for sanity from fanboys is never a winning battle, but it would be nice to see a little more thought put behind the words and actions of trigger-happy gamers. Directing your anger toward a project you don't like is fruitless and only causes more anger, not positive change.

The Helldivers 2 incident over this past weekend is a perfect example of how gamers should and shouldn't respond to a problem. When Sony mandated that a PSN account be used on a game people have been playing for months, it quite literally made it impossible for some people to continue playing the game, as PSN is unavailable in 121 countries.

Some outspoken gamers directed their anger toward the game's developers when the actual problem was the game's publisher, Sony Interactive Entertainment. Sony got the message when the game got a negative review and bombed into oblivion on Steam over the weekend, but the harsh and often inappropriate language used in online forums and social media geared toward the developers is downright unacceptable, and it needs to change.

Is hybrid AAA a better way?

Resident Evil 4 VR Mode logo

(Image credit: Capcom)

One of the more interesting critiques I've seen online is that Rocksteady and Oculus Studios should have worked together to develop a hybrid version of this game that supports both flat-screen consoles and PCs and offers a VR mode for those who want to experience it that way.

It's a method we've seen a few times recently, most notably with last year's PS5 releases of Resident Evil 4 HD, Resident Evil 8, and Gran Turismo 7, which all offer the full game playable in either VR on a PSVR 2 or on a TV in non-VR mode. Sony's release of the PSVR 2 was predicated on the idea that more of these hybrid AAA games would help further VR development while still offering something to non-VR gamers.

If I can get behind any kind of compromise, this would certainly be it.

If they're not done right, hybrid games can "feel like a hotdog in a hamburger bun. Yes they are playable, but it just isn’t right."

Every game can't be developed with a hybrid model, though. I talked to Andrew Eiche, CEO of Owlchemy Labs, about the situation. Owlchemy is the developer behind Job Simulator, one of the biggest VR hits, and he agrees that hybrid AAA could work with some caveats.

"To me, the "hybrid" approach seems to break a few different ways," Eiche told me in an email. "One is a hasty port of existing content slapped into the headset. It lets the studio say they shipped on VR and allows them to sometimes be high on a platform chart that doesn't differentiate between VR-only and VR-supported titles. It probably gives them a jolt of revenue for the initial launch. These games feel like a hotdog in a hamburger bun. Yes, they are playable, but it just isn't right."

Walking through crowds anonymously in Boston in Assassin's Creed Nexus

(Image credit: Android Central)

Something like Beat Saber makes no sense without VR controllers acting as Lightsabers. Likewise, while you can add a VR mode to any game imaginable as proven by the Flat2VR team, doing so doesn't always equate to a better game.

There are times when I just want to sit on a couch and twiddle my thumbs in front of a TV.

This sort of tactic can work beautifully, particularly when trying to breathe new life into classic games. The VR port of Jedi Knight II is a perfect example of this, and it makes playing through this classic PC shooter even more fun than the original release because it lets you become the character. It's an experience we might never have been able to have if it weren't for the efforts of Team Beef.

But there are times when I just want to sit on a couch and twiddle my thumbs in front of a TV. Whether it's been a particularly hard day, or maybe I'm feeling sick and don't want to move around much, there's always going to be a place for non-VR games.

Wouldn't it be cool, then, to be able to play through a game exactly how you want, no matter how you're feeling that day? I might enjoy playing through most of a game in VR mode but could occasionally decide to plop down on the couch and play it on a flat screen if I'm feeling tired or lazy.

Whatever the way, AAA games can be an important way to bring in dedicated gamers who are willing to spend big bucks on high-profile titles.

Eiche agrees and notes that "there absolutely needs to be a place for AAA games in VR! Let me be clear about what I am saying: There needs to be space for titles with large budgets and ambitious scope in VR. If the medium is going to be a mainstream success, the industry must be able to support a variety of titles. The current console industry is able to do this and is arguably smaller than what VR aspires to be."

Some gamers seem to be allergic to the idea of trying anything new or different.

So maybe hybrid AAA will be the best path forward for big games like Assassin's Creed Nexus — a game that didn't meet sales expectations from a big publisher that's used to raking in hundreds of millions of dollars for big releases.

It's important to note, though, that VR games require bespoke mechanics to work properly in some cases. "It is mutually beneficial for VR and AAA games to embrace VR, but VR cannot be seen as a simple porting job," Eiche said. "It must be treated as a separate medium and experiences need to be developed to embrace what makes VR so special!"

Having a dedicated VR team within the larger development team of an upcoming AAA title could be a way for big publishers to increase game sales without investing in VR-only development. This year's crop of VR-only AAA titles will certainly be a barometer of potential success, and if they don't sell as well as hoped, hybrid VR development is the next best path.

After all, some gamers seem to be allergic to the idea of trying anything new or different. This could be the way to make the largest number of gamers happy while still doing something new and different and supporting healthier development cycles financially.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu
  • denis870
    Ah yes attack the customers for telling you what they want. A very good strategy I'm sure
  • Creshosk
    denis870 said:
    Ah yes attack the customers for telling you what they want. A very good strategy I'm sure
    Yeah. "How dare fans of this game be upset that they have to pay 500 more for a platform they don't have rather than just being able to buy the game!

    What? you don't want to spend $560 just to play this game! How ungrateful!"

    Nicholas Sutrich should probably keep his nose out of things he clearly doesn't understand. What a lousy journalist. Wonderful paid shill though.

    Good lood the VR community is toxic.