Star Wars has always been a cash cow and with Disney at the helm, it's raking in more money than ever before. This is extremely clear lately, since it's the reason behind Disney's move into a new technology sphere that it hasn't previously utilize outside of its park system. Disney parks have always used virtual reality and augmented reality in different ways. The technology is more old hat to them than probably anyone else. Yet, in this most recent era of VR and AR, Disney hasn't once released anything related commercially.
This is changing with the reveal that Disney has been working with Lenovo to develop an augmented reality headset. They are working on it mostly to use with the Star Wars franchise. As I said, it's their biggest cash cow at the moment, so why not make the best of it? The first game to be released on their AR headset will be called Star Wars: Jedi Challenges. It will essentially be a collection of mini-games including holochess, overhead battles against AT-ATs, and something to do with a lightsaber, of course.
At first glance this really feels like another sad attempt to enter the virtual and augmented reality realms. There are tons of “games” that already exist for the technologies that are essentially long demos. While these can be extremely fun (Accounting VR, here's to you), they are still just hints as to what the technology can do. Even Disney is putting a toe in the water to see if it'll work out for them before they dive in. This is unfortunate, since they have the money and the resources to make an outright splash with a cannonball into the deep end.
However, there's a light at the end of the tunnel here. Disney is massive. Their tentative steps towards a future of virtual and augmented reality games will encourage others to do the same. Even if that isn't their intention, it's hard to not take notice when a massive company gets in on a hot commodity. Especially when they're utilizing an insanely popular franchise like Star Wars. I don't know about you, but I'd love to get my hands on immersive, physical lightsaber fighting action, no matter what form it takes. There are certain to be plenty of others who agree.
What I'm really getting at here is the fact that virtual and augmented realities have taken massive strides in the past few years, but there still hasn't been much to show for it. There are gimmicky ported versions of games, tacked on VR modes for some new releases, and plenty of indie games and demos. No massive companies or franchises have stepped up to the plate. There was a Batman game for the PlayStation VR headset a while back, but it didn't seem to be a commercial success. I say that mostly, because I hadn't even heard of it until my Editor-in-Chief mentioned it, and I'm supposed to be the VR nerd!
In my opinion, the Star Wars franchise is perfectly suited to VR and AR. Battles in spaceships are one of the most typical virtual reality tropes and having it take place in the Star Wars universe gives it that extra boost. There are also lightsaber battles, which would feel awesome with a VR controller in hand. Imagine that ever memorable sound effect whizzing past your ear as you take down the bad guys! Star Wars and Disney might be the push that VR and AR need to finally get up and running. We're on the cusp of the VR climax, and all it will take is one or two big members of the industry to push it over the edge.
How do you feel about Disney's venture into the world of augmented reality? Do you think it'll bring virtual reality and augmented reality to every home in America (and possibly the world)? Or do you think it'll fizzle out? Let me know!