As of March 2019, Sony had shipped 4.2 million PlayStation VR headsets around the world, making it the most successful VR headset of its kind, ever. That's a big number, no doubt, but when you think that Sony has sold over 100 million PlayStation 4 consoles overall, it's actually a very small percentage. Though PSVR sales continue to grow year on year it is going to take something big to push VR sales forward to the levels we would like to see.
No Man's Sky by Hello Games could be the start of that something big. It's getting people excited about VR again — heck it's got me excited about it, and I play almost every day — and, if it works as well as we have seen, it could make other AAA developers stand up and take notice.
It wasn't all sunsets and rainbows
No Man's Sky has been a real roller coaster since it was first published in 2016. Touted as one of the greatest games ever, with 18 quintillion unique worlds to explore, No Man's Sky just couldn't live up to the hype. Not all of that was the game's fault — though it did under deliver on certain areas like the type of animals you could meet and the lack of true multiplayer — a lot of it can be laid at our feet. The games media built the game up to obscene levels, then crushed it when it didn't deliver the promises we made.
Since then though, the team at Hello Games have worked wonders to improve the game over the original. Its last big update, Next, not only brought players back to the game who bought it early on and were disillusioned but actually added another million new sales. The transformation was huge and, we thought, fulfilled the promise of the original game.
It turns out though, Sean Murray and the team at Hello Games were far from done with No Man's Sky. They saw something more they could do with it, and so Beyond was born, and it is essentially No Man's Sky 2. The only difference is, you get it for free.
Don't call it an MMO (it kind of is though)
There are three main pillars to the Beyond update for No Man's Sky. The third pillar is a slew of general game improvements such as animal farming, an electric logic system, and even a mechanical system to allow you to automate tasks like mining. These improvements are so varied that Hello Games has upgraded the version number of No Man's Sky to 2.0 to accommodate them all. They are saying it has more than double the number of feature improvements than the last update had and that alone would have been enough for most developers.
They added a second pillar though; true multiplayer — between 16 to 32 players depending on the platform. The multiplayer experience is a now a robust system that allows you to party up, make bases together, and travel the numberless worlds with a big group of people. This will change the game like almost nothing before it, bringing the possibility of clans and empires, invasions and whole planets being terraformed.
That's what really has me excited for No Man's Sky, the knowledge that this isn't an afterthought or even a cash grab.
The final pillar is the one that is truly game-changing for the PlayStation VR and VR in general. The game has been redesigned, often from the ground up, to be fully VR ready. It will allow you to use almost all of the most popular VR headsets, including the PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and even the Valve Index.
VR needs AAA games to believe in it
It's been a while since the general populace has been this excited about a VR game. Not since 2017, when Bethesda released Skyrim VR, have people spoken about VR games with such vigor and it may be because games like Skyrim VR and Fallout VR fall short of their promise.
But for every stunning vista in Skyrim VR, you also get thatched roofing that looks like an MSPaint drawing or tall grass that looks like a prop from an elementary school play.
This quote from Russell Holly really exemplifies the problem of trying to shoehorn VR into a game that's not really designed for it. Sean Murray of Hello Games seems fully aware of this as an issue and the team has gone out of their way to make sure we don't get that feeling when playing No Man's Sky.
That's what really has me excited for No Man's Sky, the knowledge that this isn't an afterthought or even a cash grab. Sean Murray even mentioned that the publisher would have loved to see No Man's Sky VR as a standalone game, but Hello Games knew they could do VR justice in the game they have slaved away at. They also didn't want to split the fanbase and have "VR people" and "Non-VR people," everyone should be able to enjoy the game together. Hell, you can even bring your old saves over to VR and continue growing your empire.
The VR release of No Man's Sky is a win in every possible way, for existing and future VR fans.
This is what has people dusting off their PSVR headsets and reinstalling No Man's Sky, the promise of a AAA game that has reinvented itself more than once, and gotten better every time, is coming to the VR platform. A game that knows it's disappointed before and doesn't want to do it again.
So why are we excited?
When you get right down to it, a release as big as No Man's Sky in VR is a win in every possible way for existing and future VR fans. With such a huge game making people hungry to immerse themselves in the countless worlds that No Man's Sky has to offer, and with the insane amount of effort that Hello Games as gone through to rebuild the game with VR at its core, the possible ramifications for the VR industry are huge.
Here is a VR game that isn't a shoddy port, or even a great VR game that is only six to eight hours long. No Man's Sky has the potential to have thousands of people in their headsets for hours a day, potentially for as many years as they want, and with each new alien creature that walks past, or each new planet they land their spaceship on, that feeling of immersion will only grow, and with it the desire for more games that offer something similar.
We need games like No Man's Sky, and developers like Hello Games, to push VR forward into the next phase. The phase that allows rapid growth and truly immersive, AAA games, that we can be proud to play.
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