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How Apple Vision Pro Gaming Differs From Meta Quest

How Apple Vision Pro Gaming Differs From Meta Quest
Bloons TD 6+, Myst, Game Room, Rec Room, Wreckfest, and No Man's Sky on Steam.

Gaming with Apple Vision Pro is like playing in a strange new alternate universe.

You can play Helldivers 2 on a giant floating screen via Steam Link while Solitaire or Stardew Valley floats nearby for a quick card game, or a bit of farming in between drops. For a change of pace, pull up a window into Myst island or Sayonara Wild Hearts and listen to the waves lap the dock or start to vibe with the music.

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Myst from Cyan designed for iPad and iPhone plays great on Apple Vision Pro with gamepad. It can also be played with direct touch or open air pinching.

You can set up Denis Villeneuve's Dune in the background in crisp bright 3D to watch from the moon as House Atreides falls from Caladan to Arrakis. Or you can go to thematic amplification for Managed Democracy and watch an asteroid fly toward Buenos Aires in Starship Troopers while blowing up bugs from orbit in Helldivers.

Would you like to know more?

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Apple Arcade & Multitasking

While much of Apple's iPhone and iPad gaming catalog is playable on Vision Pro, some games require an Apple Arcade subscription. A few big ones, like Minecraft, are missing in action entirely while other great iPad games, like FTL, don't control well on Vision Pro.

iPad and iPhone games as well as even a few with 3D elements added in, like Bloons TD 6+, can co-exist alongside other apps. Meta announced its Augments concept late last year, but Apple is shipping a wide range of apps right now that give developers a few more options in how exactly they deploy in space around you.

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In the example of Bloons, you can pull up Bloons alongside other apps, but where others are all flat and can be repositioned above or below you, Bloons needs to be level with the ground with some of its user interface represented in 3D.

A Spectrum Of Gaming: VR, AR, PC, Mac & iOS

You could drop multitasking as a concept on Apple Vision Pro and let a game take over as the only active app in your space. This is the default state of all the games bought from the Meta Quest Store. On Apple's App Store, though, it's just a few apps that have this control during Apple Vision Pro's launch window.

Eventually, Apple plans to offer titles like Job Simulator and Vacation Simulator from Google's Owlchemy. From launch, it's games like Void-X or Wylde Flowers taking over as the only running app.

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The same game for Apple Watch and iPhone also runs on Apple Vision Pro, Void-X.

Void-X does this as a remarkably small installation from the App Store that gives essentially the same version of a game this developer made for iPhone, iPad and even the Apple Watch. On Apple Vision Pro, Void-X is controlled with either slight movements of your fingers while pinched, or with gamepad. The VR version of Void-X adds immersive lighting to the skybox as your game from iPad floats on a large screen while large explosions on the side scrolling shooter blast off the toward you as occasional 3D particle effects.

Sometimes the word "simple" gets overused when it comes to video games and software development. Void-X, though, is certainly a very simple demonstration of basic spatial gaming input that's comfortable to use for more than a few minutes at a time.

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For an experience that will take you back to the very early days of VR’s resurgence a decade ago, you can also give Proton Pulse a try. What's great about Proton Pulse is that this spatial adaptation takes you back to the early days of videogaming itself too. Simply move your head to adjust the paddle’s position in the room for a very comfortable game that's just like Breakout or Pong.

Wylde Flowers takes the farming experience of Stardew Valley deeper, quite literally, by making use of depth within its widescreen window floating there in space. Void-X puts you in fully immersive VR while Wylde Flowers shows you your physical space with some floating effects. Is either title going to sell a gamer on Apple Vision Pro? No. But in taking over your environment in completely different ways, and locking out other developers from multitasking in the process, these two traditionally flat panel games offer simple ideas to other developers in how they might try to adapt to VR headsets without changing too much of their existing work.

At the same time, the gap couldn't be bigger between these windowed games on Apple's platforms and just how vast the library is for long-form fully immersive VR content on Meta Quest, Steam, and even Pico stores. We've put together our list of the best Vision Pro games so far, and you can contrast the depth of those titles with our top 25 best Meta Quest 3 games.

Gamepads Are The Best Input For Vision Pro Right Now

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While bringing ALVR to Vision Pro for Half-Life: Alyx streaming is really cool, Apple Vision Pro just isn’t made for that sort of thing. The concept of tracked gaming controllers is alien to this system through at least visionOS 1.1.

Meanwhile, for those looking to access their PC or Mac games, mouse input is not supported on Apple Vision Pro. A trackpad feels nice for navigating multiple windows on Apple's headset, but I'm not going to suggest it works for gaming in any way.

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If you're actually serious about trying to play games with Vision Pro, you'll want to have a supported bluetooth gamepad.

Officially, that's listed as bluetooth controllers for "Xbox, PlayStation, and any controller that works with iPadOS." Unofficially, you'll want something meeting that criteria with two analog sticks.

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Wylde Flowers, for example, uses one stick to let you pan around the camera to peer into nearby areas of the windowed environment while the other stick moves your character around.

Void-X, Stardew Valley, Myst, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Wreckfest, Wylde Flowers, Rec Room, and some others were all tested successfully with gamepad.

Missing Room-Scale And Tracked Controllers

Google-owned development studio Owlchemy confirmed to UploadVR both it and Vacation Simulator will be using the smallest version of their environments on Apple Vision Pro.

That’s a huge bummer.

From 2016, Job Simulator stood as a standout example of the child-like joy you can feel tossing around objects in a simulated room and having absolutely no repercussions whatsoever. You never really needed to, but if you set up this room in a big space it was real magic walking around a few steps while still remaining completely within Job Simulator's virtual environment.

There's of course still magic in Job Simulator’s interactions even without room-scale exploration, and many players play in the smallest room by default anyway. But going that extra step or two actually mattered, and we miss having that freedom to truly move around inside VR on Apple Vision Pro.

Moving out from room-scale, we get to the games which simply do not exist on Apple Vision Pro, like Beat Saber or Bonelab, or ones which have better versions available on the Meta Quest store. We’re looking at you, Synth Riders and Puzzling Places. These are the games in which Apple’s approach to VR, in a headset geared toward professionals, falls deeply short of Meta’s gaming experience at present because the developers have been forced to build around Apple’s lack of tracked controllers.

Apple’s approach here falls so short of Meta that a trend may be brewing among developers to name their apps for Apple so they include “Vision” in the title, thus differentiating them from well-loved precision-controlled VR games available on other platforms like Steam and Quest.

The Future Of Apple Vision Gaming?

Game Room from Resolution Games gives you turn-based games like chess to play with others, but it requires the use of both FaceTime and an Apple Arcade subscription.

Apple also launched without co-located avatars who share the same space – core functionality that could unlock yet another type of game on visionOS. Meanwhile, we're still waiting for standout titles like Demeo to make good on their plan to release for the system.

Right now, the best way to play games on Vision Pro is with a gamepad. While we can't recommend Vision Pro to gamers because it is missing so much great VR content that lives on Steam or the Quest store, there are still people who will want to play games on the device, and the idea Apple isn't interested in gaming falls flat when you're surrounded in VR by games from so many different places all under the command of a single gamepad in hand.

Ethics Disclosure: Ian is married to an Apple employee.

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