In February 2017, Sony announced that there were 915,000 PlayStation VR units sold since its launch in October of last year. This exceeded the expected sales figure Sony themselves projected. Is virtual reality finally successful? No, it is still far from it but the year-by-year progress seems to be on the positive side.
When the Oculus Rift was literally kickstarted in 2012, the subsequent years were labeled as the “Year of the VR” Nothing really materialized in the VR space that constitutes outright success during those years. Last year, however, a large portion of consumer base had a positive response to the tech. This can be attributed to the actual products finally being available in the market.
Virtually reality can only be as good as the programs that the hardware runs. In no way, shape or form, does this mean that specs are not important. Virtual reality is at the mercy of its specs. When it lacks power to drive content, the user experience will be horrid. Virtual reality is always about user experience. This is the main reason why VR was put in the backburner for a decade because the technology cannot deliver enough raw power for consistent performance.
In terms of business viability, programs are key for adoption and growth. Developers should come out with “killer apps” that could tide over customers and wipe the hesitation of most consumers. There are already great VR applications, but nothing is groundbreaking yet in the vein of what Halo meant to Xbox or Pokemon to Nintendo’s handheld video game consoles. This can easily be made an excuse for the slow adoption of VR. The real setback is the price. A lot of people is still priced out of the virtual reality space. The VR units are expensive on their own and the required hardware just pushes it out of everyone’s budget. Even in the smartphone VR market, the price to pay is astronomical.
The video game platform owners are betting on virtual reality. Aside from the aforementioned Sony, Valve with its SteamVR program is dedicating resources for the tech. Fragmentation is a concern for some; Valve is partnering with HTC with the HTC Vive, Sony has its own PlayStation branded VR, Facebook owns Oculus (and is branched out to Samsung’s own Gear VR), and other VR solutions in the mobile space. Content is locked in each of the VR players’ storefronts: Valve with Steam, Sony with the PlayStation Store, Oculus’ eponymous storefront. This might be the reason too why consumers are cautious with VR. The price barrier to entry is enough of a hurdle and then the content is all over the place. There is no single hardware for everything virtual reality. There is also this looming danger that any of those VR players will drop support as soon as this does not work for them financially. Sony abandoned PlayStation Move and PlayStation Camera. Steam treated Steam Machines as an afterthought. Facebook’s current Oculus situation is a mess. The reality is VR in its current state is still in its infancy. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Truly, virtual reality is moving in a slower pace compared to other forms of consumer-grade technology. The alternative is no virtual reality at all—and that is unacceptable.