As the global Skyfront arcade tournament organised by Virtual Athletics League is drawing to a close, we take a moment to talk to Andrew Wu from HTC – one of the tournament’s primary sponsors. HTC has been on the forefront of VR innovation for years and is the creator of the Vive and Vive Pro, which are by far the most popular HMDs used in location-based entertainment (LBE). In the past couple of years, HTC has also dedicated vast resources to promoting VR esports.
Continue reading to see what Andrew has to say about the future of VR, esports and LBE.
Hi Andrew, lovely to see you! To get everyone better acquainted with you, can you tell me a little bit about what you do on the HTC Esports team?
Hey there! Long story short, the HTC Esports team focuses on marketing HTC products within the gaming and esports space. I currently lead the team and manage our partnerships with professional gaming organizations, tournament organizers, and gaming content creators.
HTC has been an avid supporter of esports for some time. What motivated the company to embark on the esports journey?
It’s pretty simple – we love esports! We love the fans, the passion, the tournaments, and all the excitement all of these things bring to the esports industry. We wanted to support the esports scene in an organic, community focused way so we launched HTC Esports in 2015. Long term, however, we really believe in VR as a potential platform for esports in the future, and we definitely want to pave that path.
In addition to the tournaments organised by VAL, is your team currently working on any other bigger VR projects?
We have some larger projects we’re working on focused on the content creators and influencer front. You’ll see announcements down the line at a later time!
What are some of the qualities HTC looks for when someone approaches you with an esports related proposal?
We only sponsor the top professional organizations. We look at everything – the teams’ results, the teams’ brand power, the video content they put out, their voice on social media. The more established and stable a team, the higher the chance of us working with them.
From your perspective, who is currently the primary driving force on the VR esports market – end-users or location-based VR? Why do you think that is?
The barrier for entry is high for premium level VR. The Vive obviously requires a high-end graphics card and powerful computer to run VR experiences; these things can be cost-prohibitive. LBEs are great for getting some hands-on experience without buying an expensive piece of hardware; they really help customers get acquainted with the headset. To really penetrate the home entertainment end-user market I think VR needs to be cheaper, more accessible, and have better content before we see widespread consumer market adoption.
Content-wise, where do you see the VR market developing in the coming year or so?
I think as VR gets more content, AAA developers will really be the main drivers of VR content. Personally I really want VR games to move away from the shooter genre, so it’ll be interesting to see what developers come up with in the coming years.
The HTC Vive and Vive Pro are the top choice for most arcades. What have been some of the key factors driving the HMDs’ success?
Definitely tracking. With base station 2.0 rolling out, Vive definitively (still) has the best HMD tracking on the market.
Aside from the physical quality, how does VR esports differ from 2D esports?
This can vary from game to game but in general: from a simple mechanics standpoint, aiming requires physical dexterity and control – very different when compared to moving a mouse or controller joystick. Another thing that comes to mind is physically turning your head to see your 360 degree environment.
What advice do you have for devs hoping to engage the VR esports audience?
You want a game to be simple enough to pick up but difficult to master. From a game design perspective you need a game that has a potentially infinite skill ceiling – something that makes the player feel good about mastering certain aspects, combos or skillshots. Replayability is key.
Another pain point in VR esports is spectatability. A built in, elegant solution for spectating VR esports is truly necessary before VR esports can be a “real thing”.
And lastly, you must be a huge fan of esports yourself. What are some of your all-time favourite esports games and do you think you’d beat us at Skyfront?
I am a huge fan of the Smash Bros. series, Melee in particular. Other games I follow are Dota 2, Broodwar, League of Legends, Overwatch, CSGO, PUBG, Fortnite, and Hearthstone.
As for Skyfront, give me a month and I’ll wipe the floor with you guys, ez.