Half-Life Alyx was an amazing continuation of the Half-Life world, capitalizing on the nostalgic advantage of the game series and hooking thousands of Valve fans immediately. However, this particular game that Valve created introduced many gamers to a world they never really imagined diving into due to the poor state it was in. This was the world of Virtual Reality.
Due to the limited number of dedicated VR games, this specific platform was not too interesting for many gamers. Most people who were playing VR games were just doing so because they had invested money in the setup way back and wanted to gain at least some value out of it. Most of these games were very repetitive and not too goal-oriented as many would anticipate.
Sure, there were later adaptations of Skyrim into the VR world as well as Minecraft, but nothing really felt in place. These were just PC or console games re-vamped into a VR game, not something directly created for VR. Because of this, many of these games felt janky and unwieldy, sometimes even making players physically sick due to poor optimization.
However, Alyx was a completely different story. This was a game designed specifically for VR gamers and a VR headset. The main issues that most VR games had were addressed in this game. The camera wasn’t too unwieldy, the movements were fluid and responsive, and so was the world. This created a much more enjoyable experience for the players and didn’t really make them feel like they were in an old bus doing zig-zags up a mountain.
Due to the fluidity of Half-Life Alyx, its interesting story, and innovative ways of incorporating action inside a VR game, many people started thinking whether this was a pathway to something much bigger than just one game. Maybe something much bigger than Valve itself.
VR in eSports
Implementing Virtual Reality in eSports had been discussed before, but not to a degree that everybody would agree it’s a good idea. You see, in order for something to become a virtual sport, it needs to have at least some kind of audience that would watch it. At this particular moment, there is no eSports-worthy VR game, nor is there a huge VR audience ready to watch tournaments or streams.
But it’s Valve!
This is the main argument when discussing VR in eSports. Most people assume that Valve wants to somehow adopt this technology in every game it currently has. The most obvious game that would be re-designed for VR is CS:GO of course. Actually, there already is a VR CS:GO plugin of some sort.
But based on the gameplay footage of some YouTubers (that are considered pros) it’s just too unwieldy, very slow-paced, and not necessarily skill-based at the moment. In order for this to solidify into an actual playable game, Valve would have to dedicate tons of resources to re-vamping CS:GO for VR.
But producing a game that only a select few who have a VR headset can play is not the best market one would like to tap into, is it? Sure Alyx tapped into the same market, but don’t forget that it brought Half-Life nostalgia.
The costs of creating an eSport
The most interesting part about eSports is that they’re not created to be eSports games. The ones that were specifically designed and launched to be eSports are not necessarily the most popular at the moment. Take League of Legends as an example. It was just a small game that didn’t really have any balance or competitive gameplay in mind at the start. Now compare that to Valorant. These two games were created for two very different purposes but the reason behind the popularity is very similar.
In terms of making something that is not an eSport, we have to talk about costs. First is the marketing cost to somehow get people to play the game so that there’s general interest. Next, we have funded tournaments after players have years to perfect their gameplay to make it entertaining to watch. Finally, we have partnerships, team-making, events and stream-hosting, international expansion, and, of course, a dedicated betting corporation.
This was one of the most important steps for FIFA when it was stepping into the eSports scene. In the beginning, almost nobody was paying attention to these streams, but by supporting or directly partnering with betting companies, they were able to reel in more and more people. Some who didn’t even play the game. These companies would go out of their way to explain how to bet on a FIFA game or why it was advantageous to watch these specific games. Most of the reasons included that there’s very little RNG in the game and is purely skill-based. Well, it’s quite hard to argue with that as in some cases MOBAs, and RTS games tend to lean towards the RNG side of things as well. CS:GO and FIFA are probably the only exceptions where very little or no RNG is part of the game.
Will Valve toss the coin?
Almost every sign shows that Valve is not going to commit too much of its resources to a game that could potentially fall flat on its face. There are several reasons for it. One is that even though there is a large interest in CS:GO, there’s not too much interest in a VR shooter as the concept is still alien to the general gaming community. Furthermore, it’s unachievable due to the lack of equipment from most gamers.
This may come across as pretty absurd but, most eSports games are heavily played in developing countries due to how they’re freely available. Most developed nations have moved to more different parts of gaming and eSports is not necessarily the core focus anymore. If VR ever wants to become an eSport it should consider its affordability for the majority of the world population.