Virtual Reality - The Challenges We Face - Part 2
If you haven't already, I highly recommend you read Part 1 of this blog series! Otherwise, enjoy!
I'm standing at a cross-roads now. I've got a lot of big expenses coming up before I leave Australia, and settling down in Europe will be expensive. I know I'll need VR Equipment at my home office if I plan to develop in my own time realistically. This brings us to the next big challenge we face in the VR industry. The cost of a good Headset, VR peripherals, and a powerful base station.
Last week I wrote about how the lack of content makes consumers hesitate, and the lack of an audience spooks would-be developers. This week we go one step deeper. Many more consumers would make the gamble to buy into VR if the entry fee wasn't so expensive!
There are several solutions on the way. Gear VR and the upcoming Daydream View offer affordable prices, but hamstring consumers by forcing them to own a Galaxy or Daydream smartphone. When we look at smartphone market share, we can see that Apple claimed 43.6 percent of all smartphones in the U.S. during the three months ending in September, according to comScore’s numbers from earlier this year. Samsung followed with 28.5%. Samsung has positioned itself favorably to reach a large audience with the Gear VR, but with iPhone users are reported to have a HUGE degree of loyalty to their brand. It's too early to project how Daydream smartphones will perform, but I hesitate to predict landslide success against Apple and Samsung.
Google Cardboard is about as affordable as they come, at $15. Cardboard also works with most smartphones! The downside, of course, is the lack of interaction. This is a headset best for watching 360° Youtube videos.
Moving up in price we have the heavy hitters - the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR. Each of these will cost a few hundred bucks on top of a PS4 (~$399) or powerful PC (~$1500). These expenses are all before you begin to factor in the price of each experience. That's right! Before developers see a dime from the content created on these platforms, the consumer is expected to spend between $800 - $2100.
Behold the salt in the wound...
Depending on your background you're thinking one of two things.
Consumer - "Wait, I need to pay extra for the controllers!?"
Developer - "Wait, I can't assume that my audience will have access to motion controllers!?"
That's right! No one wins when you sell the headset and motion controllers separately. If you want to get an idea of how this affects the VR market, reread Part 1 of this series.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time explaining that that high prices often reduces the accessibility of a product. You know that. Instead, I'll close this off with a few hopeful words about this matter.
With the Vive, Rift, and PlayStation currently going toe to toe over consumer market share, I expect that competition will drive the prices down slowly over time. When the next generation of equipment comes out, the current devices should drop in price. We'll also see how the upcoming Holidays inspire some affordable sales.
I also anticipate the next generation of VR Heavy Hitters will be sold exclusively WITH motion controllers. There is a damn good reason that every purchase of an Xbox One or PS4 comes with a pair of controllers. When people plug in their shiny new toy, they want to a knock-your-socks-off experience as fast as possible. I believe VR's strength is with these controllers instead of a regular gamepad or god forbid... mouse and keyboard...
Thanks for reading!