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PAX Panel: Is 2017 Going to be the Year of VR?

Josh Chang

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Every year someone always says that the next year will be the year of VR. Will 2017 finally be the year of VR? Read on to find out!

If you think that I’m just going to PAX to take a break from developing, well… you wouldn’t be wrong. However I found some great panels related to VR so I thought I would do a write up on them.

In PAX West 2017 I had the opportunity to attend some great VR related panels the first one being: Is THIS going to be the year of VR?

Which, if you want to see the actual talk, you can find it on Youtube:

Hosted by:

  • Demetri Detsaridis [Managing Director, Experiment 7]
  • Geoffrey Zatkin [Creative Director, Experiment 7]
  • Ikrima Elhassan [Co-founder, Kite & Lightning]
  • Robin Hunicke [Co-founder, Funomena]
  • Jeff Pobst [CEO, Hidden Path Entertainment]
  • Maria Essig [VR/ARContent Partnerships, Google] (Absent)
  • Todd Hooper [CEO, VReal] (Taking place for Maria Essig)

Note: This is my own interpretation of the panel. It may or may not be what was actually said during the panel. Specifically, please don’t hate me if I misunderstood something!

The big question: Is 2017, going to be the year of VR?

The quick answer: most likely not.

Current state of VR

While 2017 might not be THE year, VR is growing. We’re constantly getting all these new experiences…

…like these ones being created by the panelists:

Luna:

Bebylon Battle Royale:

Brass Tactics:

Settler of Catan VR:

Not all VR games have to be fast paced first person shooting games that you would normally imagine for a VR experience, there are just so many more amazing experiences that can be discovered, experimented, and created.

There was also a rumored Scrapbook VR coming soon in the future from this very panel! (It’s not)

However, even with all these experiences, VR is still near its embryonic stages and it’s still too early for it to take off.

The panelists suggested that 2018 might be closer to the beginning of the Year of VR.

A possible contribution to these hype deadlines is high expectations, publications and analysts make claims that: VR will explode! Sales of devices will be great! And so on and so forth:

 
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Note: I’m not sure how accurate these charts actually ended up being, but my gut feeling is that it didn’t go exactly as planned.

How bad are we talking? Well looking at the Oculus Rift sales in 2016 the expectations was: expected for millions to be sold vs. the reality of maybe only 100,000.

VR is a new technology. It’s going to take time and patience for consumers to slowly pick it up.

However, with that being said. The panelists did praise how fast VR is going. While sales aren’t going as fast as planned, the integration and addition of new hardware and software is going fast.

Some examples given were the development of: Mobile VR, VR social rooms, VR controllers, VR Knuckle Controllers.

The TLDR is:

  • For developers, the technology is growing at an amazing pace and there is more becoming available faster than originally expected.
  • For everyone else, VR provides an amazing experience, but its growth is much slower than expected. After all, how hard is it to just add a VR mode to an existing game?

Accelerating VR Development

 
0*FpsyI2JlTKfLGhT0.jpeg

We have an idea of where we are currently at now with VR, but how can we make it better?

The panelist’s answers were:

Speed up time/More install bases

Currently, many tech leaders (Facebook, Google, and Microsoft) are spending boat loads of money into building hardware and content for developers to use.

What needs to happen is for VR developers to create more and more applications that would incentivize more users to try VR.

Eventually, there will be a point where there will be enough users playing with VR to justify the making of a larger VR games, bringing us to the next point.

Having a Killer App

If we were to have a killer app, an app that’s so good or necessary that it forces people to buy the hardware and install bases, we would be a virtuous cycle of more users, more games.

Once there is a solid install base of users, we go back to the first point: more users, more developers, and more great apps.

Cheaper Devices

The next point is that VR devices in their current price are too expensive. We’re not going to see a fast adoption in VR if the devices are out of priced outside of the range of the average consumer.

Last year was the year of $500-$600 VR headsets. This year is the year of $300-$400 headsets. And hopefully, the next year will be the year of $200 VR headsets.

Having cheaper headsets => more people trying it and hopefully adopting the devices =>more developers => more games being created!

Changes in the Platform that Can Accelerate VR

The above changes are all the things that we would want to have, but there are some changes that were mentioned that could improve the current state of VR:

Better curated content

If the app stores for VR make sure that new users download amazing apps spread across multiple genres, they will hook the players into VR.

Ideally, from there we’ll see higher retention rate and more recommendation to use VR resulting in more users using VR, incentivizing more developers to create applications.

Cheaper Hardware

Same as mentioned above

Better Tools

In the current state of the tools available (which hopefully we’ll get to see one day in the 100 days of VR), there are sometimes software updates in the tools that makes everything that was done in the past that you did no longer work.

I can imagine that having to go back and fixed everything that broke, because of an update is both not fun and tedious.

No Exclusivity

Having no exclusivity to a certain platform is a tough problem for the industry as a whole.

In an ideal situation a developer can release their game to all platforms allowing more people to access to their games regardless of what headset they have, however…

…VR developers will most likely never see profit from their game, or at least enough the justify the time spent developing. The current number of users available is too low to justify professionals to make a career developing VR applications.

I know this might come as a surprise, but developers need to eat and sleep too! Unless VR developers are being subsidized by one of the platforms, it doesn’t make economic sense for professionals to spend a year+ making a game.

The piece of advice here is that if by chance you’re pitching your game to a subsidizer. If your budget request is small enough for a smaller game, it might be possible to negotiate non-exclusivity among the platforms, having them subsidize part of the game. Having said all of this, I can’t personally affirm or deny any of these statements being made.

Conclusion

Is 2017 the year of VR? Sadly, it seems that’s unlikely the case. 2018 might even be a little too early.

The good news is that the VR development community is still growing strong:

  • Industry leaders are still pumping money to making new hardware and platforms.
  • Developers are constantly pushing out new apps and experimenting with new concepts.

We’re slowly but surely creating momentum that will eventually break VR into mainstream usage. However until then, we’re just going to keep making games and creating cool experiences.

This was a great 1st talk at PAX and I can’t wait to see how the panelist’s game will do out in the market when they come out!

Until then, I’ll see you all later! Happy PAX!

Original article: Is 2017 Going to be the Year of VR?



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