Virtual reality is hot, but it’s still waiting for its breakthrough moment. That makes this a challenging time for developers working in the medium right now.
At the GamesBeat 2016 conference in Ranchos Palos Verdes, California, it’s about making sure VR isn’t the next 3D TV, according to James Iliff of Survios, Tom Sanocki of Limitless, and Adam Orth of Three One Zero. Virtual reality needs to secure itself as a legitimate medium and not a fad. Analysts are predicting VR could generate $40 billion in revenues by 2020, but that can feel like a long ways off for companies working on the emerging medium today.
Three devices are going to fight for the market: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR. The Rift and Vive are out now, while PlayStation VR launches later this year on October 13.
Adam Orth believes that PlayStation will likely have advantage with games, but he also said that gaming isn’t all that excited him about VR.
“I actually think that Oculus is the one that’s going to pull away, because there’s no killer AR/VR app in games,” Orth said. “It’s going to be in Instagram or something like that, that has a social element to it.” Oculus will have an advantage with social applications since it is owned by Facebook.
“What is entertainment?” Orth asked. He noted that something like Instagram is entertainment, social, and artistic. He says that experiences like that can appeal to everyone. VR is still waiting for its first break-out hit or killer app. Something that will sell technology to the masses.
VR needs a transformative moment. Some sort of experience or product that can excite the mainstream and grab the attention of the world, similar to how Pokémon Go recently did for location-based gaming.
“We need to capture that magic,” Sanocki said. He recounted how holding an iPhone for the first time in Pixar’s atrium (Apple once owned the studio) was a transformative experience for him. VR needs to give users a similar experience.
“We’re realizing we have a spatial medium that is highly intimate,” Iliff said. “VR is something that’s really magical when it comes to unlocking the innate human desire for play in a way that traditional games haven’t reached yet.”
VR is like a new beginning. It’s not just a new stage in the gaming industry.
“It’s the first time in history where we’ve had more than one medium to draw on for inspiration,” Sanocki said. For example, the stage influenced movies. VR as a medium doesn’t have to be interactive, so it can follow ideas from film, games, or even concerts. The challenge is finding out which experience will resonate with audiences.
“VR is not paying the bills,” Orth said. He also noted that it doesn’t matter, because his company believes in it. His company leap-frogs between IPs that aren’t his and original ideas. Some day, it might be easier for a company to turn a profit by only pursuing original ideas in VR. Right now, many still have to wait for the rest of the world to become as excited by the platform as developers are.