We’ve known that Gal*Gun VR has been in development for a while, but Inti Creates surprised everyone yesterday with a sudden worldwide release… but only on Steam, for Vive and Oculus devices.
While the Windows PC market certainly has a lot of early adopters of virtual reality devices, it’s hard to deny that Sony’s VR solution, PlayStation VR, has proved to be a considerably more practical and affordable means for people to get involved with this new medium.
Which is why it’s so surprising that, according to Inti Creates, there is no PlayStation 4/PSVR version currently in development. This seems like a big mistake.
Gal*Gun has its origins on consoles. Originally an Xbox 360 title before being ported to PlayStation 3 with added PlayStation Move motion controller support, the game’s format, presentation and structure has always been ideally suited to console play, and this only became more apparent with its sequel (and MoeGamer Cover Game) Double Peace, which was released for PlayStation 4 and Vita before later being ported to Windows PCs via Steam.
As with most PC ports of Japanese games, the Steam version of Gal*Gun Double Peace was great to expand the audience of the game outside of the hardware-dependent console players, though unfortunately this version launched with a number of bugs and issues that, in some cases, are yet to be fixed. The PlayStation 4 version remains arguably the definitive version of the game thanks to its reliability and good performance, although the absence of PlayStation Move support is a curious omission.
One aspect of the PlayStation releases of the game that should not be underestimated in terms of importance is the fact that they got physical releases, whereas the Steam version is digital-only. PC games in general don’t tend to get many physical releases these days anyway, and in the few cases where they do all you tend to get is a boot disc that installs a basic Steam, Origin or uPlay client (depending on publisher) and then requires you to download the rest of the game anyway.
This is largely useless for collecting and archiving purposes, but is born out of practicality: with the large file size of modern games, any physical distribution would need to be on a medium with sufficient capacity. On console, this isn’t a problem, because publishers know that every PlayStation 4 has a Blu-Ray drive. On PC, however, there is no “standard”, making it impractical to distribute games on the high-capacity Blu-Ray disc because many PC owners are still only using DVD-ROM drives, if they even have an optical drive at all. And distributing on multiple DVDs isn’t really considered as an option any more, presumably due to the cost and time of duplicating all these extra discs and the additional packaging required to hold more than one disc.
Why is this relevant? Well, consider the target market for a game like Gal*Gun: fans of Japanese popular media. The people who are into this kind of thing are willing to spend money on physical goods, be it merchandise or simple physical releases of their favourite games, anime and manga that they can hold in their hands and proudly display on their shelves as part of their collection. Many modern Japanese games also end up having fairly limited print runs in the West due to their perceived “niche-interest” status, making them eminently collectible anyway.
The people who are interested in collecting physical editions of games — be they simple disc-based copies or more elaborate limited editions with bonus merchandise — tend to prefer consoles for this reason, since physical releases are still relevant on consoles thanks to their standardised hardware. Many players — including myself — will even gladly take an “inferior” version of a game in terms of performance or presentation simply so they can have a copy of a game on their shelf rather than lost in the depths of their ever-expanding Steam library; it makes each game feel more “valuable” and worthwhile, rather than simply being a disposable piece of entertainment to be tried for five minutes and then cast aside, never to be returned to.
This aspect is also important for archival purposes; consider maybe five, ten or more years down the line when people might want to look back on this generation of gaming and examine the different types of experience that were on offer. Digital games have an inherent “expiry date” on them; at some point, digital storefronts, particularly those that are tied to a specific generation of hardware, get turned off and their content becomes inaccessible. We’ve already seen this with the PSP — though the majority of the digital PSP library can at least be accessed on Vita — and it will likely become a concern with the PS3 in the next few years.
Physical editions are subject to no such concerns, however — although the trend for “post-launch support” (i.e. bug fixing and/or adding content after release) does raise its own issues which we won’t get into here — and thus are ideal for archiving and collection purposes, for revisiting in subsequent years and simply displaying to make people aware of the works’ existence in an increasingly saturated marketplace where digital games often struggle for visibility.
All of this makes a PlayStation 4/PSVR release of Gal*Gun VR seem like an eminently sensible option. The people who want to play this game, the people who it is aimed at — they like having console versions. They like having physical versions. They like adding games to their collection, and they like being able to play them on their TV (or, in the case of VR, at least, in their living room) using simple, straightforward solutions.
On top of all that, we’ve seen there’s a proven market for the type of experience Gal*Gun VR offers on PlayStation. The success of the interaction-centric Summer Lesson has meant that we’re getting a follow-up title, and Gal*Gun VR features an aspect where you can spend time with members of the game’s cast and interact with them in VR. Idea Factory and Compile Heart are adapting their popular Megadimension Neptunia V-II for VR, featuring additional content along much the same lines. And, as we’ve already seen, VR — and PSVR in particular — is very much bringing about a renaissance in the “light-gun” shooter genre.
Restricting Gal*Gun VR to a digital-only Steam release is a mistake. Not only does it lock out a significant proportion of the prior game’s audience, particularly as PC VR headsets are significantly more expensive than PlayStation VR, it also means players don’t have the option of adding the game to their physical collection, short of manually backing it up and making their own custom packaging. Which most people aren’t crazy enough to do. (I, however, have, with a few digital-only visual novels.)
I sincerely hope that Inti Creates reconsiders its position on this, and, if you agree, I urge you to make your position known — politely and respectfully, of course! You can get in touch with the company via Twitter.
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