It's a good time to be creating VR films, games and experiences. The tech is new, there's still essentially no rules and everyone wants a piece of the medium.
The biggest success stories when it comes to VR studios include the makers of hit game Job Simulator Owlchemy Labs, who were acquired by Google earlier in 2017, and the likes of Baobab Studios and Here Be Dragons who are getting Emmy nominations and wins for work in VR.
Read this: Inside LA's exploding VR and AR scene
Here are some of the VR games and production studios we're excited about for 2017 – we've left off the big or well known studios (Ubisoft, Rocksteady, Framestore) who are experimenting with VR games or shorts to focus on a few of the new names who are pushing these platforms forward.
With its first, charming VR animation Allumette, Eugene Chung's Penrose Studios captured our attention and it's back this year with a second piece, the incredibly detailed world of Arden's Wake: The Prologue.
Chung was a co-founder of the now disbanded Oculus Story Studio (RIP) before breaking out on his own. His team have even built their own collaborative creation tool called Maestro to allow them to make stuff inside a virtual space. If you want to see where VR 'filmmaking' is heading, keep an eye on Penrose.
Read this: Our VR report from Venice Film Festival
Cloudhead Games was part of the first cohort of studios that Valve worked with to get SteamVR games using its innovative Lighthouse tracking system. Not only is its episodic FPS The Gallery a stunning, carefully constructed fantasy game but Cloudhead is also getting involved in the tech side of things including its Blink VR locomotion system and performance capture rig.
The studio just dropped a teaser trailer for Episode 2 of The Gallery series, named Heart of the Emberstone.
Play: The Gallery: Call Of The Starseed
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Here Be Dragons
Here Be Dragons' slate of VR documentaries and productions for 2017 is a pretty exciting blend of storytelling and activism. Formerly known as Vrse.works, the production studio has done an impressive job of getting Hollywood on board. HBD has worked with director Kathryn Bigelow on the live action, 360-degree National Geographic film The Protectors, about park rangers and poachers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and picking up four Emmy nominations so far.
Check out HBD's work with the United Nations, TheNew York Times and movies like Ghost In The Shell on the Within app, available for all the main VR platforms.
Watch: The Protectors
Read this: How Here Be Dragons is defining VR docs
This social VR gaming studio was spun off from Japanese mobile megapublisher Colopl and has a couple of titles available now: Mega Overload, a roomscale retro arcade shooter for Vive and Rift, and tower defence/archery mash up Kingdom Watcher for Gear VR.
Founded by Jikhan Jung, Subdream isn't slowing down either with three more VR games slated for release by the end of this year. Dream Pets VR is due in September on Steam Early Access and lets players customise, pet, dress up (!) and play with three dog breeds.
It's this focus on social-friendly titles that are easy to pass and play that could mean big things. Expect to see a ton of Subdream Studios titles at a VR arcade near you in the next few years.
Play: Mega Overload
Read this: VR is getting more social and less isolated
Back to animation and Baobab Studios is another one of our early favourites on the VR production scene. You might have heard the comparisons to Pixar and we stand fully behind them. These are polished but quirky stories with animals and aliens – what's not to like?
You can watch the full episode of Invasion! – directed by Eric Darnell (Madagascar) and narrated by Ethan Hawke – via YouTube and Gear VR/Daydream now, plus look out for the next instalment Asteroids! coming soon.
The Rogue Initiative
Covering games, films and everything in between, The Rogue Initiative has some serious talent behind it with co-founders and hires from Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Activision, Warner Bros and Sony. Phew, yeah.
We haven't seen much so far, aside from the brief but beautiful "cinematic VR game" Crowe: The Drowned Armory. But what's coming up looks hella interesting – an untitled (but original) Michael Bay VR project has been in the works since 2016, plus there's Ilya Rozhkov's VR film Agent Emerson, starring Lyndsy Fonseca and Tony Denison, which is coming soon.
Play: Crowe: The Drowned Armory
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