InXile Entertainment is announcing Frostpoint VR: Proving Grounds, a multiplayer team shooter in virtual reality. It’s a bit of an unexpected announcement, as InXile is finishing up Wasteland 3 for release this fall, along with another unannounced role-playing game. It’s also the Microsoft studio’s final project for another publisher. The game is coming this year for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive VR, and Valve Index.

Frostpoint VR’s publisher is Japan-based Thirdverse. The company published Swords of Gargantua, a multiplayer sword-fighting game that came out in 2019, under the moniker Yomuneco but rebranded to Thirdverse earlier this year “to better align with our mission and focus on the metaverse,” cofounder Kiyoshi Shin said over email. Multiplayer team shooters are a big market, as Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch and Riot Games’ Valorant show. But the genre, like many others, is small in virtual reality. So InXile and Frostpoint see an opportunity there, even with VR’s smaller (but engaged) player base.

This isn’t InXile’s first foray into VR. In 2018, it launched The Mage’s Tale, an RPG set between The Bard’s Tale III and The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep. It’s on Oculus and Steam VR.

“We’d been working on it for a few years before the acquisition, and like Wasteland 3, Microsoft has been great in allowing our existing partnerships and deals to remain,” InXile boss Brian Fargo said over email, confirming that “yes, after this title and Wasteland 3, we’re a fully focused Xbox Game Studio.”

Frostpoint features two sides fighting against each other, and its setting is a run-down military training base in Antarctica. This blizzardy battleground has a wildcard — biomechanical beasts that may attack both sides as you’re trying to blast your foes. You get more than a dozen weapons.

“[The biomechanicals are] essentially a wildcard faction that appear wherever players are, and more of them will show up if you’re doing something like capturing a point. So it creates a lot of tension and variety in the game modes as you’re dealing with the enemy players, but also this third and unpredictable force,” Fargo said.

The description brought The Thing to mind, as both have monsters in a chilly setting (though that horror movie has a much more slithery angle). Frostpoint does have a bit of a media tie-in — the world and story are from Daniel Wilson, the author of New York Times best sellers such as Robopocalypse and How to Survive a Robot Uprising. (He also has a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon.)

“Over the years, we’ve adapted that, and yes, we were fairly inspired by The Thing as we went. In fact, we were actually talking to John Carpenter at one point to create the soundtrack for us. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out,” Fargo said.

My question: Microsoft does have Windows Mixed Reality and the HoloLens. I wonder if this is the end of InXile’s VR development … or just a new beginning.

“Anything’s possible. We don’t have any other projects in mind, but things can change,” Fargo said.