$1 million in prizes

As competitors spring up, Oculus plans mobile VR contest

Oculus launched a developer contest today that will distribute $1 million in prizes for games and apps built for Gear VR — the mobile virtual reality headset it helped Samsung build.

The Mobile VR Jam requires ideas to be submitted by April 20, and final products by May 11. Oculus will announce the winners in June. The top game will take home $200,000, and $100,000 will go to the top app.

The announcement comes just days after reports that Valve and Nvidia will release virtual reality headsets at next week’s Game Developer Conference. While Gear VR was the first notable headset to market and Oculus, virtual reality’s harbringer, has sold 100,000 units of its latest developer kit, virtual reality has not yet hit the mainstream.

Content will play a major role in the first headset consumers ultimately decide to buy. That makes Valve scary, as it owns Steam, an online game store with a ravenous community.

A silhouette of a virtual reality headset believed to be the Valve SteamVR surfaced on Reddit February 24.
A silhouette of a virtual reality headset believed to be the Valve SteamVR surfaced on Reddit February 24.

So why put up $1 million for Gear VR, a mobile, but less powerful, device on which Oculus collaborated? Samsung hasn’t released how many units it has sold, but Gear VR doesn’t appear to be a blockbuster (it’s still in the “Innovator Edition” phase, after all). It could use a boost from more big and inventive content. And whatever competitors come up with can be used on Oculus Rift too.

Oculus held a VR Jam back in 2013, when it offered up around $50,000 in prizes for content developed for its prototype headset. The gaming winner, Darknet, is still in production today.

As the virtual reality race heats up, let’s see which headset emerges as the Playstation and which is the Dreamcast. But, please, no Virtual Boys.