- Dec 11, 2018
Virtual reality has a perception problem. For anyone who has followed the re-emergence of the VR market, it's simple enough to regard it as a fading trend. We have, after all, been analysing its progress for the best part of a decade.
However, there is an illusory quality to that appraisal. There are articles about Oculus VR on this website from 2012, but that was the very start of years of picking apart promises and ideas. As a commercial reality, VR didn't really begin until March 2016, with the launch of the consumer version of the Oculus Rift. I may have been writing about VR for almost a quarter of my entire life, but as a marketplace for games and content, it has only just entered its fifth year.
Ndreams CEO Patrick O'Luanaigh describes the years before the Rift launch as "the Palmer Luckey days" -- an era defined by big acquisitions and "tremendous hype," which created a lasting sense that VR hardware should have been a success from day one. Many working in VR did their part in creating and fuelling that hype, but just as many advised patience with an expensive, evolving technology that simply wasn't ready for mass adoption.
"They all got the potential that VR had," O'Luanaigh recalls, talking to GamesIndustry.biz after his keynote at the Yorkshire Game Festival. "What they didn't get was that the first VR headset to come out, the DK1, wasn't brilliant. It had a lot of flaws.""Sony is one of the few companies to actually announce headset numbers -- which is frustrating"
Ndreams has always put forward a slow-and-steady philosophy, despite pivoting to VR all the way back in 2013. O'Luanaigh is predictably enthusiastic about the future of the market, and until last year's launch of Oculus Quest, that kind of enthusiasm was often dismissed as wishful thinking. Before then, the market's one unqualified success story was PlayStation VR.
"PlayStation VR has done really well all the way through," he says. "You can look at Sony's sales numbers, and it's one of the few companies to actually announce headset numbers -- which is frustrating... We've got pretty accurate internal estimates [for the size of the entire market] we think, but it's frustrating."
That opacity has been central to VR's perception problem. When the size of the market is obscure even to those who have invested their livelihoods in serving it, one can reasonably ask what there is to hide. For O'Luanaigh, however, what we can see provides enough evidence of progress; Sony confirmed five million sales of PSVR headsets at the end of 2019, and that is just one part of the audience that VR developers can now reach.
"People are returning, and buying new stuff -- that never happened before in VR"
Virtual reality has a perception problem. For anyone who has followed the re-emergence of the VR market, it's simple en…