New horror game Resident Evil 7 set to boost VR gaming

The new horror video game, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, was released worldwide today. The latest game in the long-running series looks set to revive the franchise and boost virtual reality gaming.

Resident Evil is a staple of video gaming. The first game in the series was released in 1996 and was developed and published by Japanese game company Capcom.

More than 20 video games, plus a live-action film series, have been created for the franchise. The series has also been highly influential on video gaming, having helped define the "survival horror" genre.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a new direction for the franchise
Capcom
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a new direction for the franchise

However, recent games in the series have struggled. While Resident Evil 5 and 6 are some of Capcom's best selling games (having sold 7.1 million and 6.6 million units respectively) they were not as well received critically as earlier games, and Capcom admitted in 2013 that sales of Resident Evil 6 were handicapped by "inadequate organizational collaboration."

But the new game looks set to turn things around. The gameplay has been radically redesigned and is already receiving positive reviews.

Steve Bailey, senior games analyst at IHS Technology, says Resident Evil 7 needed a new approach in order to keep the franchise fresh.

"A more measured, atmosphere-heavy first-person experience is potentially a great refresh for the series. It's flattered by Capcom's production values, while remaining within the themes of the IP," he told CNBC via email.

"Early preview coverage, and today's first-round of press reviews, paint a positive picture, implying that RE7 has hit the mark in terms of critical reception."

The game is also notable for fully supporting virtual reality (VR) headsets. Included in its second quarter results in October, Capcom outlined its plans for VR.

"We are actively pursuing expansion into VR, such as with full VR support on 'Resident Evil 7: Biohazard' and with the VR attraction 'Tokusatsutaikan VR Daikaijyu Capdon'," the company said.

"However, elements of sales promotion and cutting-edge technology research are prominent in both of these cases, therefore we do not believe VR on its own will contribute to earnings immediately at this time."

Bailey says Resident Evil 7 could prove to be a "feather in the cap" for devices such as the PlayStation VR, which launched last year.

"We saw much activity in the VR hardware space last year, with a number of promising platforms taking shape within the market. What's now needed are some compelling games to help demonstrate the medium's potential," he said.

"Game development for VR can be complex and expensive, so the involvement of large traditional game publishers could certainly help to push things along."

Capcom expects to sell 4 million units of the game worldwide. Over 12 months, shares in Capcom have declined around 5 percent.

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