On August 3rd CCP Games, developers of EVE Online, blasted out a press release, unveiled a trailer, and activated social media accounts for the rollout of a new game: Gunjack. It’s an arcade turret shooter, set in the EVE universe, and intended to be a release title for the upcoming Samsung Gear VR (the mobile-based ‘little brother’ to the Oculus Rift). The release of Gunjack is stated to coincide with the ‘official release’ of the Gear VR, which appears to be a bit of a nebulous concept; the Gear VR Innovator Edition has been available for purchase since 2014 and other iterations have since come out.
As for the game, it looks – well, it definitely doesn’t look great. And as someone who has long watched CCP, this announcement is more bewildering than anything else. Among the many questions that come to mind are the following:
- Why a simple, bland-looking turret game? Just to have a piece of the action on another upcoming VR platform?
- Isn’t having not one, but two games in development for unreleased platforms while the playerbase of their core product shrinks kind of, um, risky?
- For that matter, why do this instead of fleshing out Valkyrie?
The answer to that last one may have something to do with CCP’s structure. Valkyrie is being developed by a team based in Newcastle, while Gunjack appears to be the product of CCP’s Shanghai studio. Of course, it’s obviously very much based on Valkyrie – to my eye, it’s essentially Valkyrie with player movement stripped out and turret game mechanics slapped in. It seems likely that CCP essentially sent Valkyrie over to Shanghai and said “alright, make a game for Gear VR using this tech.”
CCP Shanghai was supposed to be working on something else, though. We can only speculate about the fate of Project Legion (a re-imagining of CCP’s troubled PS3 shooter DUST 514 intended for the PC), which, as of earlier this year, was already being downplayed in favor of its predecessor. It is unclear what impact the development of Gunjack had on Project Legion’s apparent deprioritization, if any.
There’s historical reason to be skeptical in a more general sense here; CCP has a checkered track record with new titles. DUST 514 was (and remains) a flop and the long-lamented World of Darkness MMO was cancelled after languishing in development for nearly 8 years. EVE Valkyrie looks fantastic, but remains unreleased.
One thing is clear: CCP is going in hard on VR. As CCP’s CEO says in the press release linked above:
“We believe that virtual reality will be a defining element of gaming’s future. It may take some time to get widespread adoption, but we’re going to be there on day one,” said Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of CCP. “We’re making smart investments in VR so we can learn important lessons early and blow people’s minds when they get their hands on their first VR headset.”
CCP appears determined to make a big splash as VR arrives for the broader consumer market in the near future. Whether the investment is worth the risk remains to be seen.