Present and future realities of cross-platform gaming in VR

Not everyone can agree on a VR headset — some people insist the Rift is better, some people insist the Vive is better, and some can't live without their Gear VR.

There is not, however, the same animosity between VR owners as there is between console and PC owners, thanks mostly to some great cross-platform games. This could all change when PlayStation VR is released, but for now things have been mostly friendly.

Want to face-off your Rift against your friend's Gear VR? Why not see who racks up the most frags; someone using a Vive, or someone using a PC and monitor. It's all possible thanks to the emerging landscape of cross-platform gaming in VR.

The current VR cross-platform landscape

Right now, there are plenty of games that you can play not only between Vive, Rift, and Gear VR, but with a PC and monitor as well. This bodes well for the future: game developers see that people want this kind of thing, and because it works so well — War Thunder is a great example of this — they will continue creating games for all platforms. It's a bonus for them, too, as their potential audience is expanded with each VR rig they include.

The only current downside is that Vive users have to ditch their motion controllers and pick up a gamepad or sit down for a mouse and keyboard. This isn't terrible, but anyone who's used the motion controllers know how much fun they are, and how much they add to a game.

Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR

Oculus has done a fantastic job of creating games that are available for both Rift and Gear VR, and that can be played cross-platform. These games are designed in a way that doesn't give an advantage to one VR rig over the other, which is basically the foundation of cross-platform gaming.

The number one example that comes to mind is Minecraft, which comes in the Windows 10 Edition Beta for Rift, and the Gear VR Edition for, you guessed it, Gear VR. Cross-platform capabilities between these two devices comes thanks partially to the use of a gamepad, and a version of Minecraft that isn't quite the same as the classic Java version. Don't worry; parity is planned between all official versions of Minecraft.

A few other notable titles available cross-platform between Rift and Gear VR are:

  • Dead Secret
  • Anshar Wars 2
  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
  • Dreadhalls
  • Eve: Gunjack
  • Darknet
  • Into the Dead

Keep in mind that if you use ReVive to play Rift games on your Vive, you can also play the same titles listed above against Gear VR owners. Cool!

Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and a traditional PC and monitor

Rift and Vive - best friends

There is an ever-growing collection of games available on Steam, and several have some great cross-platform capabilities. The following list is a great start to your collection of games that can be played with friends using either a standard PC and monitor, an HTC Vive, or an Oculus Rift:

  • War Thunder
  • 5089: The Action RPG
  • Combat Core
  • Ascension VR
  • Dogfight Elite
  • Minigolf VR
  • Toy Plane Heroes
  • Descent: Underground
  • Altspace VR

Because you can play Oculus Rift games you download from the Oculus Store on your Vive using ReVive, technically anything found there can be cross-platform. Keep in mind you will not be able to use the Vive's motion controllers — you will most likely need to invest in a gamepad if you don't already have one.

The future of cross-platform VR gaming

The current reality of cross-platform VR gaming has a sad lack of motion controllers. You Vive owners out there want to team up with your Rift friends to shoot and slash your way through a robot army, but it's just not currently possible. I feel for you.

There is a light ahead! Oculus has been promoting their forthcoming Touch controllers, but there is still no set release date. That's OK — we want the best from them, no matter how long it takes. When the Oculus Touch controllers are released, a whole new world of cross-platform gaming will open up.

No longer will games be limited to gamepads and keyboard/mouse combinations. All those awesome games, games that make you duck, spin, crouch, and scream at the sheer immersion, will be available cross-platform. Vive owners with Rift friends will finally be able to join them in full immersion, motion-tracked gaming.

Touch controllers

Does this all sound too good to be true? That really depends on the final iteration of Oculus's Touch controllers. Will they support a room-scale setup, or will they only track about 270 degrees of movement? There's nothing definitive yet, but Oculus has stated that both cameras will be placed at the front of the room, effectively eliminating a full, 360-degree area of play.

If this does turn out to be the final release design, it will be mostly up to developers to figure out how to make motion-tracked games cross-platform between Rift and Vive, and there still realistically won't be the same immersion you find when you can move around your entire VR space.

Here's to hoping the future holds fully immersive, motion-track, cross-platform gaming.

You and your friends

Do you play games with friends who use a different VR rig? What do you use, and what do they use? How does it work? Let us know all about it in the comments section below!

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