Why Beat Saber Is VR’s First Killer App! — GlutenFreeVR

Beat Saber, by Hyperbolic Magnetism, may be the answer that VR enthusiasts have been calling for.

But before I get into it, here’s some background:

Up until now, VR has struggled with mass adoption.

And the lack of mass adoption has caused VR headset sales to suffer across the board, leading to a stunted total market share.

Which means that the quality and quantity of VR content has stagnated due to the lack of mid-to-large sized companies developing projects on the platform.

My apologies to everybody who’s already enjoying their VR experience, but this is the honest truth.

VR has been picking up some speed, however, with the release of the Oculus Go.

And Q4 2017 saw a nice rise in Oculus Rift and HTC Vive sales following their respective price drops from ~$800 to ~$400.

Not to mention, PSVR has been leading in terms of VR headset sales overall.

But when you factor in the prerequisite cost of a gaming PC or PS4, are the headset price cuts from egregiously expensive to still pretty damn expensive enough to drive true-blue 6DOF VR into the mainstream?

I don’t think so.

What’s Happening To The VR Consumer Base, and Where Does Beat Saber Come In?

Companies such as Facebook, Sony and Google are pouring money into the VR industry out of faith — not because they’re making returns.

And the problem with VR’s lack of adoption isn’t even with the technology itself.

It’s the perceivable value that regular people are willing to pay for.

I could talk your ear off for hours about how amazing VR is, and why I love it, and why I could spend most of my time in VR every day.

I’ve even started a website all about VR!

But that’s because I’m an enthusiast.

I was willing to pay a premium for what VR has given back to me.

And that’s fine — for me.

I can’t expect you to feel the same way.

Not until there’s something special — that is only accessible from VR.

Something that compels you, your mother, and everybody in your neighborhood to take the leap and get a VR system.

And something that, once it gets its grips in you, you will feel like you couldn’t live without.

It would need to do something so amazing (something you didn’t previously know you needed or craved) that it makes the initial entry cost worth it for you and most other people.

Put simply:

VR needs a killer app.

Up until last week, I was writing a piece on my predictions for what VR’s killer app might look like.

But then I picked up Beat Saber.

And I deleted the prediction piece.

Why?

Because Beat Saber blew me away.

You Could Never Do Beat Saber Anywhere Else

When I was showing off The Thrill of the Fight! via live stream on my personal Facebook timeline a few months ago, one of my friends came onto the feed and left a comment.

“Why not just go to your local boxing gym?”

Now, other VR enthusiasts might take that as pointed criticism.

Because from a VR enthusiast’s perspective, the fact that we can simulate so much specific stuff is a boon and a selling point.

But that was a fantastic question. Like 99.99% of everybody else on the planet, he doesn’t see the world through rose-tinted VR goggles.

And yes, I may have exaggerated that figure a bit — but stick with me because I have a point.

What he asked, is the same question that’s on the mind of every regular person who’s currently brushing off VR.

“Why don’t you just do that in real life?”

“Why would I want to buy a VR so I could pretend to do something I can do anyway?”

From my perspective, it’s because I’m playing a video game (that I love!) with my Oculus Rift (that I love!), and it’s letting me lose weight from my bedroom.

That’s super useful to me.

And I want everybody else to know about it.

But, having not tried VR before, everybody who sees that live stream is getting a different message.

They’re seeing it on a flat screen, and they aren’t getting the utility that I’m getting.

And they don’t have it in their own hands, and they probably can do in real life what I’m simulating in VR.

So it doesn’t represent a need to go out and get an expensive headset and a gaming system.

To them, most VR simulations live deep in the uncanny valley.

“Why the hell is this guy showing us this?”

“What’s in it for me?”

Regardless, I love referring back to The Thrill of the Fight! when I’m building an argument for the power of VR as a fitness tool.

But it isn’t compelling to the average person.

It isn’t a killer app.

So then, what is Beat Saber and why is it different?

Beat Saber is a game for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (with a PSVR version in development), which gives you two color-coded lightsabers and tells you to slash blocks at varying angles.

Sounds pretty simple, right?

The hook is that the blocks go to the beat of the music, and to hit them you need to move your entire body accordingly.

Beat Saber is a dance class, wrapped in a rhythm game, with lightsabers, in VR.

And holy crap is it fun.

Here’s the magic of Beat Saber: it keeps you fully immersed in the fantasy that it’s weaving while making you do crazy stuff in your (real life) playspace.

That’s exactly what people are talking about when they pedestalize VR presence.

You’ll never be able to wield lightsabers in real life — but Beat Saber makes you feel like both a Jedi master and a professional dancer.

At the same time!

In a way that could only work in VR.

People Want To Watch Each Other Play Beat Saber

That’s why it went viral on social media when YouTuber Ruirize recorded himself playing a perfect run of Kaskade’sNever Sleep Alone,” which Kaskade later reposted on his own Facebook page.

My point is that Beat Saber is sticky.

It’s trending all over the Internet because of its novelty — there is nothing like it anywhere else.

And watching it is too much fun!

When you see Beat Saber, you visualize yourself holding those lightsabers, and that magnitude of self-insertion makes you crave VR. Because now, you finally get what VR is all about.

Oh, the hours you could spend slashing color-coded cubes.

I don’t know of another VR game that’s had this level of social interest.

And that’s important because:

Beat Saber Has Lasting Power

This is the big one, and there are two reasons behind this.

Reason #1: The Workout

The difference between VR and flat panel games is that, when you spend hours in a flat panel game and it gets boring, you might feel like you’ve lost those hours.

In VR, you always take something away from the experience — whether it be calories lost or physical strength gained.

Beat Saber, from my experience, has been a lot like a revved up dance course.

Cubes can come at you from every possible direction and in any quantity. And Beat Saber requires you to slash them at every angle.

Not to mention, there are mines — that you must not scrape with your lightsabers — and red walls that your head can’t touch.

The beauty here is in the possibilities for obstacles to force to you move in certain ways — and sustain that movement — in order to have a fighting chance at beating a level.

This game can even force you to do squats.

If you spend too much time playing Beat Saber, you won’t be guilty — you’ll be fit.

Look ma’, one hand!

Reason #2: The Level Editor

Beat Saber is a goldmine for modders and musicians alike.

Any song that’s ever been written can be worked into an entirely new level, with a new dance routine, that represents a new way of playing the game.

I was playing one custom level that forced me to replicate the dance moves from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. Between squats, of course.

You will have a heyday with Beat Saber because you’ll never run out of content.

The plethora of custom levels factors heavily into replay value here.

This is the UI of EditSaber, a custom Beat Saber level editor by Ikeiwa.

In some ways, Beat Saber feels a little like LittleBigPlanet’s original run on the PS3, crossed with Guitar Hero fame.

But this time around, each minute spent playing translates into a phenomenal full-body workout.

Conclusion

VR is picking up speed at too slow a pace to hit those juicy mainstream audiences.

So then, what’s the most important factor in getting the VR platform out there-

Is it killer content, or is it affordable hardware?

My money is on killer content.

Because that’s what makes the hardware useful.

Look; modern VR tech is more than mature enough to host great content — and 6DOF VR headsets are going to remain costly for quite some time.

Developers need to add value to the VR platform — so that, like the smartphone, it’s something that people won’t be able live without.

Beat Saber is the first major step in that direction.

It has something for everybody.

And it’s compelling.

But most importantly, you can’t get it anywhere else.

Have you tried Beat Saber?


Originally published at www.glutenfreevr.com on June 4, 2018.