Technology 4 min read

Virtual Reality Check: Why the VR Market is Shaping up to be a Hard Sell

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Wayne0216 |

In 2016, three different VR headsets were released to great anticipation and everyone agreed that it would be the year of VR. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Now, 2017 is predicted to be the year of VR. Some say VR won’t be mainstream until 2027.

VR has existed as a concept since the 1950s, and as a viable entertainment technology since the 1990s. Yet, it has not been embraced by the masses. For several years, this technology remained reserved to the professional applications of large industries (aeronautics, automobile, healthcare) which still are the main commercial outlet for VR.

The VR market needs a lot for #2017 to be the year of #VRClick To Tweet

VR infrastructure will have to be built in order to make engagement more practical.

No, VR Didn’t go Mainstream in 2016

In 2016, there was an increase in the number of headset models released, from the high-end, such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, or PlayStation VR, to the more affordable, such as the Samsung Gear.

The commercialization of these headsets encouraged fans and garnered general enthusiasm of the entire digital entertainment industry. Immediate announcement of additional VR accessories promised a rapid development of the VR market.

Yet, the headsets did not sell as desired. VR couldn’t draw the general public, and there was no “VR rush” in its launch year.

On a Facebook Q4 2016 Earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that the start of the Facebook-owned Oculus had been slow. He went on to predict that it would take the Rift about ten years to reach iPhone’s level of adoption.

What is Setting Back the Democratization of VR?

The VR market is far from the success and growth predicted by experts.

Despite more than 2 million headsets sold worldwide in 2016 (800,000 PlayStation VR, 500,000 HTC Vive and 400,000 Oculus Rift), sales are well below the 3.6 million forecast unit sales of the Rift alone.

This situation is mainly due to high prices of equipment, dubious hardware quality and the lack of interesting content.

As gathered from Gabe Newell, president of Valve, here are the three main hindrances to a successful VR market:

1. The Cost of VR

Right now, the general public is not ready to pay top dollar for VR. In some cases, this is due to knowing that prices will ultimately drop following the evolution of the VR market.

“Gabe Newell of Valve shared that only 30 Steam VR apps have made over $250,000 USD.”

For most, it is the sheer expense. Given the lack of content, the total entertainment factor of VR is short lived and yet it costs much more than most gaming platforms that can provide years of entertainment. The HTC Vive system costs twice as much as a well thought out home computer build, and it brings you much less functionality.

2. Hardware Quality

Current VR headsets compromise the VR immersion quality. They are bulky, obstructive, and made for sedentary use. With wireless headsets, users will be able to immerse themselves more in VR experiences, without the fear of tripping over cables.

Experts suggest that companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Logitech should enable their wireless controllers to be used as wireless accessories for existing VR headsets.

3. Limited Available Content

When it comes to VR content, it’s a catch-22. Consumers hesitate to adopt VR while there isn’t much interesting content available, and developers wouldn’t go through the hassle of creating such content unless there’s an established base of users.

Yet still, 39% of developers are working on a VR/AR project. While not a majority, this is a significant allocation of the talent pool.

The acquisition of a headset by the consumer is the first step towards the immersive VR world of which they dream. For the VR market to take the next step, headsets must be accompanied by a rich catalog of sufficiently immersive and interesting content.

The VR Market Needs More Than Games

After the lukewarm reception of VR in 2016, analysts say perhaps it’s 2017 that will see the adoption of VR as a household technology. We think movie studios and other sectors of the entertainment industry will have to pick up the slack.

Experts say gaming companies should redo select existing games to use dual in-game camera systems and put them out onto the VR market. Secondly, they suggest for 3D artists and tv/film professionals should use this opportunity to knock out some VR product of their own.

All VR is is a system for delivering an image divided to display as two side by side images which the headset shows each to one eye. There must be cameras and film systems that can produce images specifically for VR content. Hey, GoPro, there’s a new market for which to design a camera.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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