New Year's resolution: please, no more shooters in VR

A Meta Quest 3 with a toy gun
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

My excitement for the future of VR gaming has never been higher. This past Holiday season once again saw a record number of VR headsets sold, a trend that's been happening ever since the Meta Quest 2 launched in 2020.

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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.

To top that off, the highly-anticipated Assassin's Creed Nexus VR debuted with glowing reviews, and Asgard's Wrath 2 turned out to be the best VR game ever made, eclipsing Half-Life: Alyx with perfect 10s across the board. But in all the celebrations over the past few months, I've noticed an underlying problem creeping up: too many of the same types of games are being made.

December's UploadVR Winter Showcase was filled to the brim with new game announcements, but I can't possibly be alone in thinking that far too many of them were games that revolved around shooting other players or zombies. Don't get me wrong, some of the best Meta Quest games are zombie shooters or competitive multiplayer shooters, but there is a such thing as market saturation.

Thankfully, the list of upcoming Meta Quest games is still filled with variety, but I still worry that too many developers are still chasing the idea of making the next Call of Duty or Fortnite, and that's just not realistic.

Too much of a good thing

Drop Dead: The Cabin screenshot with me superimposed in it as a zombie

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Last January, we got the truly excellent Gods of Gravity, a unique space strategy game that's still going strong today. Towards the end of the year, great multiplayer games like Racket Club and Dungeons of Eternity proved that you don't need to have guns in a game to have a great time.

And even for a while, I thought it was impossible to have too many good zombie games in VR. The medium is perfect for the theme, and it's obvious that gamers love the concept of slaying zombies — especially when you can do it alongside friends.

Even this tired genre can be broken into with some innovation, though. Drop Dead: The Cabin changed up the zombie formula by putting two players in a cabin in the woods, tasked with escaping while surviving waves of enemies. The game later debuted a mixed reality mode when the Quest 3 was released, reviving the title with yet another innovative feature.

But the number of low-effort — or just low-budget — games with this theme is crowding out the possibilities of doing something new and more interesting with a budding medium. VR offers a new perspective and new possibilities for gameplay, so why keep retreading the same old, same old?

VR offers a new perspective and new possibilities for gameplay, so why keep retreading the same old, same old?

Unsurprisingly, multiplayer shooters also fall into the category of tired game concepts. Several new shooters launched in the Fall and over the Holiday season but I'd be hard-pressed to care about any of them. We already have a million deathmatch-style shooters, so why do I need another one?

The biggest problem with many of these games isn't the game itself. It's that there are so many similar options that the player base is too thin to be any real fun at all. Few things are more irritating in a multiplayer game than a long matchmaking queue or, worse, no players to play against.

This doesn't mean there's no room to grow, but developers need to be careful how they move forward when developing yet another shooter. Two standout games in 2023 show how to do it right: Ghosts of Tabor, and Breachers.

Breaching a crowded market

A mixed reality image of me playing Breachers with a Meta Quest Pro

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

We named Breachers the best multiplayer VR Game of 2023 not just because the game successfully channeled the best elements of Rainbow Six Siege into a VR-centric package, but because it was so highly-polished at launch.

Since then, the game has received several new maps, a Quest 3 graphics upgrade, and kept the tight-knit community feel that Population: One once enjoyed before it went free-to-play. I'm part of a group that tries to play every Friday night, and it's amazing to me just how busy the servers constantly are.

Earlier in the year, Ghosts of Tabor launched in an early alpha state to wide acclaim from PCVR enthusiasts, delivering an impressive combination of realistic weapons handling of ARMA with the looter-shooter mechanics of the popular Escape from Tarkov.

The initial buggy release was quickly polished over a series of months as it entered early access on the Quest and generated untold amounts of hype thanks to CEO Scott Albright, eager investors, and an avid player base. Ghosts of Tabor is expected to see its full version 1.0 release over the coming months, helping to fill in an obvious gap in the VR library.

If a new game is highly polished or fills a new niche then it might stand some chance of success. Otherwise, it's time to move on to something else.

Further out in the year, Contractors Showdown aims to bring Call of Duty Warzone and PUBG battle royale feels to VR headsets. Developer Caveman Studios just finished up a successful alpha testing period and, once again, looks to be filling a gap in the VR library by offering something that doesn't exist yet despite being a shooter.

And that brings me right back to the main point. There are more than enough shooting games in VR to go around and plenty of niches that have already been filled. No one wants or needs yet another deathmatch game with no purpose and no long-term endgame. We have plenty of shooting galleries and rail shooters. And heaven knows I've already killed a gazillion and one zombies in VR.

If a new game is highly polished or fills a new niche then it might stand some chance of success. Otherwise, it's time to move on to something else for a while and experiment with genres that haven't seen much love. How about a racing game? There's a paltry number available right now and a good racer would fill a significant hole in the Quest's library.

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