New Report Shows Declining Interest in VR Gaming

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A newly-released survey from GDC -- Game Developer Conference -- revealed interest in VR for game developers is down slightly from previous years. Of the nearly 4,000 developers surveyed, 19% said their current game will be released on VR headsets. But when asked what platform(s) they expected their next game would be released on, only 17% said VR headsets.

More pointedly:

"For the third year in a row, the survey asked respondents whether they believe VR/AR is a long-term, sustainable business, and for the first time, the 2018 survey sees a rise in the number of “No” answers. In the past two years, the responses to that question were roughly 75% “Yes” to 25% “No.” However, this year, 71% of respondents said “Yes” and 29% said “No,” they don’t see VR/AR as a sustainable business."

So is this an alarming trend? A harbinger of doom?

I don't think so. Rather, I see this as consistent with what the market has clearly expressed. The market does not want (1) a tethered experience, (2) a high-end gaming PC to run the experience, (3) a complex sensor set-up, and (4) high cost. Hardware manufacturers get it. That's why Oculus is releasing their new standalone VR headset later this quarter, the Oculus Go. That's why Oculus is working on an even more powerful standalone device, code-named "Santa Cruz." That's why HTC has a standalone device for sale in China right now the Vive Focus. And while the Go will only allow for 3 degrees of freedom (3 DoF), the Focus allows for full-body, room-scale 6 degrees of freedom (6 DoF) with (1) no tether, (2) no high-end gaming PC to run the experience, (3) no external sensors, for only (4) $600 US dollars. The only downside: it's only available in China right now. But expect to have a standalone from HTC in the US market soon. And then there's Lenovo, which recently announced the first self-contained VR headset based on Google’s Daydream platform, called the Lenovo Mirage Solo. Price? Under $400 US dollars. Available in Q2 of this year.

Did the GDC survey ask about standalone devices? Nary. A. Word.

Is that a glaring oversight? Perhaps. But it could also testify to this simple fact: folks aren't aware of standalones. Not even developers. And that in itself is a problem: developers need to know about these devices because we depend on the developer community to make compelling stuff. So while the "build it and they will come" mantra may prove to be true, you have to know what to build. But more importantly, you have to know what to build it on.