Zombies stalk E3 and VR haunts the game industry

Starbreeze has a different take on VR. They’re looking at custom content developed for their new wide view StarVR headset.

Walking Dead starts take a break from Zombie hunting to visit E3 (Source: JPR)
Actors from the Payday webseries Dash Mihok (L), and Damion Poitier (R) take a break from the Payday booth to check out some zombie action at the Walking Dead booth. (Source: JPR)

Swedish company Starbreeze is fully invested in zombies.  The company has several big franchises including The Walking Dead, Payday, Syndicate, and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which has been developed by the company’s studio, Overkill. At E3 the company has been doing a dynamite job of marketing setting zombies loose through the halls and giving away masks from its Payday franchise. The company believes their franchises give them the running room they need to reinvent gaming with their own approach to VR. They’re building an experience around The Walking Dead and their new VR headset, the StarVR, which has the widest field of view out there at 210 degrees.

The company’s execs, an affable international bunch with loads of experience and industry cred, just laughs off any earnest questions about the competitive market for headsets. CTO Emmanuel Marquez tells us they’re playing a long game and in fact, VR is still a long game and Starbreeze is just getting started. The company’s VR technology comes from the acquisition of French VR company InfiniteEye. In addition to InfiniteEye, the company has also acquired Los Angeles based studio Orange Grove Media for about $7 million. They’ll be working primarily on The Walking Dead but the acquisition also brings in new IP, The Hunt – Assault on Mythos.

Marquez says they’re going to take their time and get it right. They’ve allied themselves with SteamVR and that group’s OpenVR initiative. Interestingly, Marquez compares the StarVR, with its wide field of view with iMax. They’re looking at building experiences that tightly link games with peripherals for a more immersive experience.

In the case of The Walking Dead, Starbreeze says there’s a lot of interest that continues to be generated by the tie in between the comic books, the games, and the TV shows. Starbreeze has signed a long term agreement with Skybound Interactive, the game development division of Skybound Entertainment, which has spawned The Walking Dead titles originated by Robert Kirkman.

At E3 the company had a killer booth – kind of literally – with a carefully crafted demo that put visitors in wheelchairs and invited them to blast away at zombies with a plastic shotgun. Totally fun. It’s very immersive, even though the title is still in the very early stages and is a little rough around the edges. The experience is a cross between a shooter game and an arcade ride.

The StarVR team set up camp outside the exhibit halls so invited guests didn’t need to be all badged up to get in and there were plenty of people who really wanted to get in.

Dan Murray, president of Skybound Interactive, told the audience at AMD’s retail summit that he’s not interested in creating VR titles as a marketing tool. He wants to extend the idea of a comic book or TV shows into a new form of media. In this case, an experience that immerses people in the world of the Walking Dead. The people at Starbreeze are fully signed up for helping build a new form of media.