Skateboarder Tony Hawk wants his next bestselling video game to use virtual reality so the next time players pull off ollies, grabs and grinds, the experience will be that much more lifelike.
“I like the free-roaming element of VR, the idea that you can really explore huge worlds in 3D, and to an extent the motion, because it does feel immersive,” Hawk, 48, explained to Yahoo Finance during a recent interview. “It feels like your stomach’s falling out of your chest when you’re free-falling and things like that. That to me is really exciting, because I don’t feel like we’ve had that in any other video game realm.”
Before he retired from professional skateboarding in 1999, Hawk won over 70 competitions during a 17-year career and pioneered the “900” — a trick that calls for the skater to rotate 900 degrees, or roughly two-and-a-half turns, in mid-air. The “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” game franchise, which also debuted in 1999, generated well over $1 billion in revenues for game publisher Activision Blizzard (ATVI) before his contract expired in 2015, according to Hawk. His personal net worth is around $120 million, according to some estimates.
Hawk owns a prototype version of the Oculus Rift headset, which earned critical acclaim early on for offering VR experiences with an unprecedented level of interaction and immersion.
“My 15-year-old son Keegan loves it,” Hawk said. “He’s always telling me about all the updates, and really I guess he’s my target audience in terms of how to get the information. He’s my focus group.”
To be sure, Hawk is in the very early stages of brainstorming what his next skateboarding game will look like and how it will handle. There are a number of challenges, including how to create an authentic skateboarding experience that takes advantage of VR’s pros and shuns the nascent technology’s cons.
“VR is so immersive that it can be nauseating, so that is a challenge,” he said. “As long as you can hold your cookies down, maybe it’d be all right. I learned that lesson early on when we released Ride, with the skateboard peripheral. I thought it was super fun, but I learned the hard way that most gamers don’t want to get up and do the actual action that it takes.”