Why is 2016 not the year of VR?

Every news outlet is posting about VR and how it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The reality has been less than stellar, but the truth is “That’s ok”!

Let’s look at the market landscape quick:

  • Google Cardboard
    • Price: Free to $80
    • Extras: Needs an iPhone or Android phone, meant to work best with Android, bluetooth controller optional
    • Experience: Cardboard model quickly looks like a greasy pizza box, requires a hand to hold it on your head, experience limited to power and size of your phone
  • Oculus Rift
    • Price: $599
    • Extras: Needs a powerful PC, average price is $700-$1200
    • Experience: Sit down at your PC, controller is xbox controller, tethered to PC, 1 ir camera on desk to measure movement
  • HTC Vive
    • Price: $799
    • Extras: Needs a powerful PC, average price is $700-$1200
    • Experience: Comes with 2 VR controllers (1 for each hand), 2 room ir cameras to setup, requires at least 5ft x 6.5ft space
  • Razor OSV HDK2
    • Price: $399
    • Extras: Needs a powerful PC, average price is $700-$1200, needs a controller
    • Experience: Sit down at your PC, controller is xbox controller, tethered to PC, 1 ir camera on desk to measure movement, open source software
  • Samsung Gear VR
    • Price: Free to $100
    • Extras: Needs a Samsung smart phone (Note 5, S6, S7), can work with bluetooth controller
    • Experience: Untethered, strapped to the head, controls are on the ride side of the headset, access to the oculus app store

Near future devices

  • Google Daydream
    • Hype: works with some current Android devices and future ones, has a one handed controller
  • PlayStation VR
    • Hype: works with PS4 and future PS4 Pro, play with standard controller and/or wand controllers

Now that the current landscape is out of the way let’s get into my opinions as a game enthusiast, designer, and monetizer.

Gripe #0:

Why are people buying VR things?

When you get down to it, people are buying VR so they are the coolest person on the block. They want to show their friends and family. I did the same thing with just about every breakthrough entertainment device since I was born. Gameboy ✓ SNES ✓ VirtualBoy ✓ N64 ✓ Dreamcast ✓ GameCube ✓ Wii ✓ WiiU ✓ Kinect ✓ VR ✓

Gripe #1:

Central store of content.

Right now it is a wild west of places to get apps or games. Making them run correctly right after download is pretty rare. The Apple App Store has content for iOs cardboard experiences, the Google Play store for Android cardboard experiences, Steam for HTC Vive, Oculus PC store for Oculus, Oculus Samsung Mobile store for Gear VR, Sony for PS VR content. Nothing plays nicely together yet.

Gripe #2:

How do developers make $?

Are people buying VR content? Is there a free to play model? How many users are there for each store? What happens to content released now and there is a finally a large adoption of VR devices, does it get lost in the stores like most mobile apps do?

Gripe #3:

People want to sit.

Sitting is awesome, but laying down is even better! Right now it is cool to stand like when the Wii first came out with Wii Sports. Soon we figure out how to just sit on the couch and make the smallest movement possible to toss the bowling ball. VR will be like that, no doubt.

Gripe #4:

Prices are high.

You can argue that the most affordable route is the Google Cardboard because the majority of us have a smartphone already. True, but that experience sucks and is really a novelty. It is made of cardboard. Sure there are plastic ones you can purchase that have a strap to make it stay on your head, but the weight distribution makes it heavy on the user’s nose. In most cases you are holding the device to your head.

Will things get better?

Yes, they likely will. I am excited for what the future holds and want to be part of it.