Image: IRIS VR
Low-Fi has been in development for many years. In the meantime, the VR industry has changed completely, forcing the developers to rethink their strategy.
Low-Fi is the spiritual successor to the early VR game Technolust, which was released in 2016 for the PC VR headset Oculus Rift. After an update that added new content and support for the Oculus Touch controllers, solo developer Blair Renaud turned his attention to creating a major new VR game, later announced as Low-Fi.
In September 2019, Renaud launched a successful Kickstarter campaign and received the approximate equivalent of $80,000. I tested an early build at the time and was impressed by the atmospheric and detailed set pieces, which made me feel like I have stepped into a Blade Runner movie. But at that time I couldn’t do much more than walk, explore and fly in a car. Low-Fi wasn’t a game yet.
Low-Fi goes hybrid with a flat version
Originally planned for late 2020, the VR game has still not been released. The Kickstarter page has not been updated since late 2022, and a planned release for PC VR and PSVR 2 in 2023 has not been met.
The developer has now provided an update on the status of the project via Twitter. Renaud writes that the main focus was originally on “Next-Gen VR”, which means PC VR and, following the announcement of PSVR 2, Sony’s VR system. As PC VR has been in decline since Half-Life: Alyx and the PSVR 2 wasn’t taking off this year, the team decided to release a flat version of the game as well to make up for the small user base of said platforms.
The state of LOW-FI and platform support (Death of PCVR):
When the Kickstarter ran back in<date redacted>, the main focus was “Next-Gen VR”, meaning at the time PCVR, with high hopes for PSVR2 (which hadn’t been officially announced).
During the next year or so, we (myself,… pic.twitter.com/MM6mKtZFAA
– Blair Renaud // LOW-FI ??⬛ (@Anticleric) January 4, 2024
Renaud goes on to write that the studio is starting to run out of money and that there is pressure to finish the VR game, without committing to a timeframe: Low-Fi “won’t ship until its good and done”. Renaud also rules out a Quest port. “Not with this budget (or lack thereof), this sized team, or this generation of devices,” he writes.
The industry moved quickly from PC VR to standalone VR
Low-Fi has been in development for at least five years, and the VR landscape has changed a lot in that time. Between 2016 and 2018, Playstation VR and PC VR set the tone. Starting in 2019, standalone VR began to take hold with Oculus Quest, and Valve Index (2019) and Half-Life: Alyx (2020) did little to change that.
Today, Meta Quest is by far the largest VR platform that developers can no longer avoid if they want to make a living from their VR apps. The example of Low-Fi shows how much the VR industry has changed: Developing for PC VR and Playstation VR 2 alone is often not profitable. And if you can’t or don’t want to downscale your VR game visually, you need to find other sources of revenue. The team behind Low-Fi sees this opportunity in a hybrid version of the game.
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