It seemed that over the past year everyone online was buzzing with chatter about VR and the future of entertainment. What changes would come to how we interact with games and movies, how will we interact with each other in the virtual spaces of the future and why is the future always so damn expensive?
Well my original assumption has been totally destroyed according to Nielsen's latest 360 Gaming Report. The report, based on surveys taken by over 2,000 adult and teen gamers living in the US, has found that only a mere 37% of them could name at least one VR or AR device.
Is It That Time Already?
That device, as seen on the diagram above, is the Oculus Rift with 22% and that's due to how long the device has been discussed in public sectors. But, still that means 78% of the people asked have no idea that the Rift exists.
Which in turn bodes worse for the other hopefuls and heavy hitters, mainly the HTC Vive which, like the Sulon Cortex and Razer OSVR, pretty much sits on no-ones radar at all.
What are the reasons behind this dearth of knowledge? Nielsen Games' general manager Michael Flamberg believes it has something to do with education, and in an interview with Gamesindustry.biz, he later went on to clarify his thoughts:
"Education will be an important factor for these companies to get the word out. However, this type of experience doesn't really lend itself to traditional marketing driven education. A lot of the education will likely be organic through buzz/word of mouth and come from early adopters."
Which means the developers of these devices in question need to do a better job in promoting their wares to a public that may feel already priced out by the high costs of converting to VR, if they even know of the existence of VR full stop.
How Much Is The Future?
Upgrading to VR will come at a steep price no matter which direction you look. HTC Vive will set you back $799 with $30 shipping costs, and Oculus Rift costs $599. Which isn't a small amount of money on both sides, but, thanks to another revelation from Nielsen, would be perfectly affordable for the demographic most interested in the tech.
According to the graph above, the gamers that are most aware of and most excited at the prospect of VR are young male millennials, or 35+, who earn around $63k per year and have a monthly spend of $20 on video games. These are the same men that you normally see jumping onto the early converter bandwagon and being one of the few first to have themselves the latest tech.
Whilst we need early adopters to spread word of mouth, create viral content and simply just talk about the damn things and generate awareness, what good is all this chatter if the average gamer won't be able to join the future of entertainment because they're not a male millennial that earns $63k a year? Will these marquee devices see dramatic price drops in the next few years and become more inclusive?
Past Is Dust, The Future Is Pixels
Sure, we've seen gimmicks like Virtual Boy, every Wii peripheral, PS Move and Kinect (to name a few) waltz in and out of the door like they knew they weren't going to make any in-roads at this party.
But for VR to work, it has to earn the trust of the average gamer. And that's where PlayStation VR, Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR come in. These devices may have already won the battle by not being severely overpriced, and will work with already existing tech. Meaning you won't have to shell out $1000 for a new VR ready PC, or have to go down the upgrading route.
But with the massive amount of content already available for Gear, Cardboard's outrageously low price and PSVR's outrageous line up of studios working on VR content, and it's stunning pricing of course, perhaps millennials won't be the only ones enjoying the spoils of future tech.
All we have to worry about now is whether the content will be any good.