Someone should follow the money to see if Ubisoft chief executive Yves Guillemot has invested heavily in Dramamine or a barf-bag company, because his publisher is preparing to release a game that I’m not sure anyone will have the stomach to handle in virtual reality.
Trackmania Turbo, the attention deficit disorder of racing games, is bringing VR support with it when it launches for PC (as well as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One without VR) next month. In an effort pump up the excitement for VR Trackmania, Ubisoft is turning to a 360-degree videos on YouTube and a free iOS and Android app to convey the sensation of bolting across an impossible race course at unholy speeds. These kinds of VR-light experiences are crucial marketing tools because — while tech adviser Digi-Capital predicts the virtual and augmented reality markets will reach $120 billion by 2020 — no one making hardware or software for this burgeoning sector has figured out and easy and effective way to demonstrate the technology to people who haven’t physically tried it before. Even a savvy company like Sony has gone onstage and faltered while trying to show off its PlayStation VR.
Ubisoft understands that VR doesn’t mean a lot to most people yet, so it’s using readily available and inexpensive technology to do a new kind of marketing. YouTube has had 360-degree video support for a few months now, and we’ve seen companies like Lucasfilm use it for virtual tours of planets from the Star Wars universe in the lead up to the release of The Force Awakens. And Google has also introduced its Cardboard VR headsets that enable people to experience simple simulations by putting a smartphone into a cheap sleeve that goes over your eyes. But with the top-of-the-line Oculus Rift headset and HTC Vive head-mounted displays launching in the next few months, Ubisoft is one of the first companies to realize that Cardboard and 360-degree YouTube videos are a great way to give people a fundamental understanding of what VR is like even if you haven’t tried a fancy headset with in a motion chair yet.
Trackmania Turbo’s 360-degree video demo is below. You can move the camera around while it plays by clicking and dragging. You can also watch the video on mobile using Google Cardboard.
Check it out: