By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
When Virtual Reality headsets finally hit the stores, such as the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and others, there was one brand noticeably missing… Apple. And maybe that’s because Cupertino knew something we all didn’t… that VR, like 3D before it, is a fad, and quite possibly already a failure of one at that, judging by recent sales figures.
You’d think that after Pokemon Go took over mobile phones this year that the industry would see that virtual reality could be a success (imagine playing Pokemon Go in a crazy VR world), although the app itself is more augmented reality than anything. It truly blew up the summer, and it wasn’t hard to see people playing it around malls, parks and more. But it didn’t lead to a boom in virtual reality gaming.
“Many research firms’ numbers also have shown that VR product sales in 2016 have been weaker than expected due to lack of content and high product costs. VR/AR technologies also require more improvement in order to stimulate demand from both the consumer and enterprise sectors.” – Monica Chen, DigiTimes
For pure virtual reality, we’d have to look at headsets like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and HTC Vive, and according to sales estimates, despite the amazing experience sold in Holiday Shopping commercials, people simply aren’t buying the hype. The reason for this is two fold…
Primarily, I think virtual reality is going to fail because it’s too expensive at this point, and the poor sales figures are proving that. While Samsung was wise enough to keep their Gear VR cost down to under $100.00, it could do so because it was tied to a mobile smartphone, rather than a PC or gaming console. And even there, you’re saddled by having to buy into the Samsung Galaxy mobile ecosystem. But since people upgrade their phones often, that’s not as huge a deal as the Rift and other VR options.
“Many research firms’ numbers also have shown that VR product sales in 2016 have been weaker than expected due to lack of content and high product costs. VR/AR technologies also require more improvement in order to stimulate demand from both the consumer and enterprise sectors.”
By contrast, headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, are driven by the gaming market, and as such, require high power computers to shoulder the processing load required by virtual reality. Even Rift creator Palmer Lucky has said that most computers would not be powerful enough to handle the Rift without some lag, and that for users to really get the bang for the buck, they’d have to buy a new, Rift certified computer as well.
Considering the Rift is around $600, plus another $200 for the Rift controllers that just came on the market, and then you have to add on another cost for a gaming PC which can easily run over $1,000, it’s easy to see why, if people wanted to experience VR, they’d go with the Samsung Gear.
The HTC Vive is no better as it costs even more, and Microsoft’s HoloLens is even worse, with the developer’s edition running $3,000. Yikes. And to be honest, the image quality at this point isn’t great for that price point.
Even Sony hedged their bets, choosing to put their marketing muscle behind their new PS4 Pro game platform, rather than Sony Playstation VR, another expensive VR option. The feeling here is that Sony is playing it super conservatively, but they’ve also said that VR on the underpowered PS4 standard platform isn’t much of an experience at all.
“They did not offer any first-party deals this weekend, restock bundles or market the device, pushing instead for the PS4 Pro,” said Stephanie Llamas, director of research and insight at SuperData. “They have also pointed out that VR looks even better on a Pro than a standard or slim PS4, so the message to most gamers is: get the Pro now, then the PSVR later.”
So price is going to naturally kill this market all on its own. At least for this holiday season. But there’s also a noticeable lack of content. Sure, studios are investing heavily into VR, but to what end? Have we seen an announcement of Star Wars, the VR edition? Well, kinda. Sorta. But not really. Have we heard of any VR TV shows that are coming, even to Netflix? No. So where’s the content? I think that the content is coming to the place that VR makes the most sense, Gaming. And even there, it hasn’t been as robust as even the most conservative estimates have predicted as we’ve noted above.
The only other option I can see is with a live event like a game, concert, or newsworthy event. But even then, I think it’ll be largely ho hum after the first initial experience.
These factors may be why Apple has decided to stay out of virtual reality, for now. And it could also be because Palmer Lucky has no intention of developing for Apple, because he says it’s too underpowered for the Rift.
But if and when Apple does get in, Tim Cook says it’ll likely be in augmented reality, which he calls a core technology.
“There’s virtual reality and there’s augmented reality —both of these are incredibly interesting,” Cook told ABC News, “but my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far.” That means that Apple is going to do what they always do. They’ll keep their powder dry and wait a little while to see how a market shakes out. Then they’ll come out with something they call “innovative and game changing,” when in reality it’s just the next step.
Honestly, from a filmmaking perspective, I think that virtual reality in cinema is a non-starter, despite the doubling down by Fox (i.e., Blade Runner 2049’s VR experience) and the predictions of it being huge. Sure, some filmmakers may be excited because it gives them a fresh new tool to tell stories, from unique first-person perspectives, but my feeling is that it’s just too exhausting to be involved in a VR story.
Clearly, some naturally want to look around, but they need to pay attention to where the story is leading. If you look away at the wrong time, you miss something. Heck, even James Cameron found virtual reality to be a yawner.
Lastly, there’s the unfortunate issue of physical comfort. Many people get ill from VR. Not exactly conducive for the lean back experience.
So like 3D before it, Virtual Reality is more gimmick than the next big thing. And I think the sales figures we’re seeing this year bear that out.
Source: Apple Insider