Christmas 2016 is almost upon us and we all know what that means – presents! It is a big time of year for video game and entertainment companies as well, who will be looking to spruik their content into as many households as possible across the festive season. This year there is a new contender in the electronic entertainment market – Virtual Reality – and, while it’s still a relatively young market, it is reaching the stage of make-or-break territory.
It has been a couple of years now since the current cycle of Virtual Reality fanaticism began; the reveal and consequent launch of big name players like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have been driving stories behind the development of Virtual Reality. There is no doubt that the technology is certainly better placed to succeed now than it ever has been in the past, and there have been plenty of missed opportunities in the past.
Been There, Done That
Take the Nintendo Virtual Boy, released in 1995, for example. It broke new ground in Virtual Reality exploration for the time, but even with a big name like Nintendo behind it, there would be little success for a product hampered by an unrealistic price tag and a severely limited range of games. The Nintendo Virtual Boy was discontinued less than six months after it was launched.
The idea spurred new interest in Virtual Reality and plenty of lacklustre attempts followed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Headsets with gimmicky names like i-Glasses and Stuntmaster flew onto the market, but none would find any sustained success.
The world has seemingly been in pursuit of believable Virtual Reality since the 1950s, not content with what could be achieved in the real world. While attempts at the market have come and gone since then, the current iteration of Virtual Reality hardware and software has certainly poised itself at the technologies best chance of making it into the mainstream.
The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were two of the first big names in the current race for Virtual Reality supremacy. Both owned by supermassive parent companies, they both seemingly have a golden opportunity to crack the elusive mainstream market.
Head-tracking, a decent and growing range of games and experiences, control of potential motion sickness, and links to pre-established bases of gamers through the Steam and PlayStation networks provide the perfect foundation. Yet still, Virtual Reality has struggled to break into the mainstream thanks largely to exorbitant prices, a hurdle faced by many new technologies. Both platforms enjoyed predicted success on their initial launch, but once the enthusiastic early-adopter market had gotten their hands on a device the industry struggled and sales of both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift plateaued in September 2016.
Initiatives like the PlayStation VR and projects like the Samsung Gear VR have given renewed hope to players hopeful of getting involved without having to fork out the money for a quality headset and a computer capable of supporting it, but it remains to be seen whether they can be the gateway into hardcore Virtual Reality that many expect. Some have predicted that Virtual Reality has a bright future, and it certainly has the potential to be, but its success across the upcoming Christmas period will be key in spearheading its momentum heading into the future. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said last month that for his company’s Oculus Rift to succeed it would need to sell at least 50 million units, with current sales adding up to an incredibly small fraction of that target.
‘Tis The Season
Christmas 2016 poises itself as a golden opportunity for Virtual Reality to sneak its way into the stockings of countless consumers and it is crucial that it does so. Virtual Reality needs a new influx of attention and if it can’t get that from extravagant Christmas spending, then where can it?