The games commissioner at UK broadcaster Channel 4 believes virtual reality games for a mainstream audience is the future of the technology - but that too much investment is skewing towards experiences for hardcore games.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Colin MacDonald is keen to see more mobile experiences for devices such as Gear VR, and that such titles need to be more accessible than the traditionally-structured games that many virtual reality developers are working on.

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Colin MacDonald, Channel 4

"There's a massively disproportionate amount of money and effort going into development of 'core' games for VR at the moment," MacDonald tells us. "The market is simply not big enough yet to sustain that many, and won't be for years to come.

"Virtually all of our TV audience has a smartphone capable of VR now, whereas PSVR and Rift still have niche ownership, so our hope is that by bringing a relatively simple and accessible game to the VR platform with the most mainstream adoption we'll be able to get traction where others have struggled."

His comments follow the close of E3 2017, where the virtual reality line-up was fairly lightweight but primarily aimed at a core demographic (as befits the expo's audience). Bethesda alone showed off new VR versions of Doom, Skyrim and Fallout, geared towards fans of its flagship franchises, while Sony announced six new games for PSVR.

Channel 4 quietly released its first virtual reality title last week - or at least the game that will become its inaugural VR offering. Published by its All 4 Games division, headed by MacDonald, Soar is a relaxing title for mobile that aims at a more casual audience and will be made compatible for Samsung Gear VR later in the year.

"Interestingly, Soar wasn't originally intended as a VR title," says MacDonald. "The developers are eLearning specialists rather than experienced game developers, and they were just creating something tranquil and gentle that they hoped would help people deal with stress in their lives.

"But what grabbed me initially about Soar was that you play it simply by looking where you want to go - which gets rid of all the problems around clunkiness of controllers, of not being able to see them, and of the difficulties in marrying what your hands are doing to what your brain is seeing. And that instantly makes it much more accessible to a broad audience."

However, MacDonald clarified that this is a case of All 4 Games dipping its toe into virtual reality rather than taking the plunge, clarifying that Soar is "very much a one-off for now".

"I've been a fan of the tech ever since getting to test one of the first Virtuality VR kits back in the early '90s in the ECTS/Earls Court days," he says. "So whilst I'm not actively looking for more VR titles, I'll happily take a look at any on mobile and if it feels like they're similarly different enough with appeal to a broad TV audience, then we'd always consider it at least."

All 4 Games is one of several games publishers looking for new titles at this year's GamesIndustry.biz Investment Summit, which will run alongside EGX in September. You can find out more and sign up here.

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