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Hype for Gear VR Content Has Begun. Will Developers Follow?

Samsung's new virtual reality goggles further fragment the budding VR world.

Imangi / Temple Run VR

When it officially announced its virtual reality goggles, Gear VR, this morning, Samsung highlighted the obvious: It needs really good content to get consumers over the hump of trying this weird new technology.

“The story’s going to be written by content, at the end of the day,” Samsung VP Justin Denison said. “How the content is made available to consumers will drive whether this is a success or not.”

Although no partnerships were announced onstage at IFA 2014 in Berlin, a handful of developers — including Temple Run maker Imangi and Japanese gaming conglomerate DeNA — have already announced games for the new device. A Samsung press release, meanwhile, lists VR apps from the likes of IMAX, Vevo and Cirque du Soleil, and the Gear VR will be preloaded with “experiences” based on blockbuster movies like “The Avengers” and “Pacific Rim.”

The new device, though, has created a third road for VR-interested developers to consider. In a company blog post, Oculus struck a balance between praise for the new partnership and reassuring its existing developers that it hasn’t forgotten about the platform they’ve been making games and apps for: The PC.

“We want to emphasize that the mobile project doesn’t change our plans for the [Oculus] Rift or our commitment to (and love for) the PC,” the company wrote. “We’ll continue to push the boundaries of performance and presence on the Rift for PC, while making VR available to the widest audience possible entrance at the lowest barrier to entry by leveraging the strengths of mobile as a platform.”

Both the Rift and the Gear VR offload computing to other devices — a decently powered PC and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, respectively. Just as the Rift can’t be used without a computer, the Gear VR will be sold as an accessory to the Note rather than a standalone headset. Meanwhile, developers may also be drawn to the living room clout of Sony, which has its own proprietary VR setup, dubbed Project Morpheus, in the works. Morpheus is designed to play games running on the PlayStation 4.

With none of these devices yet released to consumers — and the Gear VR being hampered out of the gate by being designed for exactly one Samsung phone — the if and when of developer interest is an open question. The first version of the Gear VR, Oculus said in its blog post, is an “innovator edition” intended for “developers and enthusiasts.”

That hedge gives Samsung and Oculus a slightly longer runway to convince developers to get on board with mobile VR, a game that Oculus has played well with the two “development kit” versions of its original headset. The innovator edition goes on sale “this fall.” Consumer release dates for the Rift and Morpheus are still TBA.

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