2016 was supposed to be the year that virtual reality hit the big time. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were released in March and April respectively, and promised to bring about innovations which would change the way people lived their lives. Everything from gaming to social interactions were set to be revolutionised in the new medium. But two years on, this hasn’t been the case. In fact, it now seems like a false dawn. So what will it take for VR to go mainstream?
VR looks set to go through a number of iterations before the perfect model is created.
Despite only generating a meagre $6.1 billion in 2016, VR is still projected to explode in 2020, and in 2021 is expected to be worth an astonishing $215 billion. So what needs to happen first for this amazing revenue boost to occur? One way of looking at pieces of tech like the Rift and Vive now could be to compare them to early consoles like the Magnavox Odyssey. Released in 1972, this was the first ever home video game system. Around 350,000 units were sold in three years before it was discontinued in 1975.
Although the Odyssey failed to catch on, it did spark the beginning of video game consoles which have improved and evolved ever since. VR looks set to go through a number of iterations before the perfect model is created. The same could be said for VR software, which is quite primitive at the moment compared to the rich and detailed open world console games. Would players prefer to play the jerky and cartoon-like Job Simulator in VR or the recently released epic God of War without the headset? Currently, the gap between the two mediums is massive.
The gaming industry should play a major part in the rise of VR when the offerings become more advanced. As seen with the rise of mobile as a preferred platform to desktop, game developers can help entice players to switch to a different device. App games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush assisted with this, as did online casino games like slots and roulette which are ideal to be played from mobile. Now, operators like William Hill online casino offer live links to real roulette games to make players feel like they are part of the action. This experience could be enhanced further with VR. Casino software giants Microgaming have come up with VR Roulette, and if this is rolled out in a number of major online casinos, there could be a drastic upsurge in the amount of VR devices sold.
Another major factor putting customers off VR at the moment is the price of the gear. When the Rift was released, it was a jaw-dropping $599.99 for the headset alone, a price that few would be willing to pay for a piece of unknown kit. When newer models hit the market, the older versions should become a lot cheaper, allowing more people to pick them up. Perhaps a few generations of headset down the line, the software will have become good enough to attract users in their millions. Right now, though, the VR revolution seems to have been a bit of a damp squib.