BBC Ends Virtual Reality Unit – What Does This Mean for Doctor Who VR Games?

The BBC has axed it virtual reality (VR) unit, the department which developed Doctor Who: The Runaway earlier this year. The news came in a blog post by Zilla Watson, Head of BBC VR Hub which celebrated the unit’s achievements since its launch in 2017.

“The VR Hub had funding for two years so is now wrapping up its production and commissioning,” the BBC said in a statement reported by BBC News. “It’s been an important part of our charter commitment to promote technological innovation and maintain a leading role in research and development which benefits the whole industry.”

Rather ironically, the news comes just as new Doctor Who VR game The Edge of Time from PlayStack and Developer Maze Theory is launched. So what’s going on?

It’s common knowledge that the BBC is under financial pressures which have led it to pull the plug on a number of services, including the BBC3 channel (although that has continued online). But it seems that in this instance it’s less a budgetary decision and more a case of doubts about the future of the technology that are responsible. Audiences for VR content were reported to be low, and it seems we may be some years away from the necessary technical capability for more enticing products.

Tech giant Google has halted the sale of its Daydream View headsets and announced that its new smartphone the Pixel 4 will not support support VR technology. Google said in a statement:

“Over time, we noticed some clear limitations constraining smartphone VR from being a viable long-term solution. Most notably, asking people to put their phone in a headset and lose access to the apps they use throughout the day causes immense friction.

“There also hasn’t been the broad consumer or developer adoption we had hoped, and we’ve seen decreasing usage over time of the Daydream View headset. While we are no longer selling Daydream View or supporting Daydream on Pixel 4, the Daydream app and store will remain available for existing users.”

As to what this means for further Doctor Who VR games, it looks as though the corporation will be leaving any future development to the private sector, although Watson’s post does state that “the BBC will continue to identify audience opportunities for VR, and we’ll continue to licence our existing projects.”

What do you think? Is there a future for Doctor Who in VR? Or is the technology not yet up to the job? Let us know in the comments below!