Guest Column| How has the year 2019 been for VR?

 Let’s start with bird eye view about the state of VR and then we’ll go down and understand it fully. We are entering 2020 and also the fifth year of consumer VR. Bird eye view shows that VR arcades are mushrooming and it’s one of the hottest business to be in but at the same time, VR failed to reach households. As predicted last year, even VR Arcade is not the biggest market for VR as the adoption in corporate for VR is way higher and far more monetizable than any other form of VR business right now.

Let’s get down to details:

Global VR Industry in 2019

2019 definitely saw lot of innovation, adoption, cost optimization and better content than ever before resulting into some interesting acquisitions in the market. One of the biggest push was from existing players where we saw Oculus releasing Quest, a far better upgrade from previous All-In-One Oculus Go and also Oculus Rift S which offers inside out tracking and no sensors are required. HTC Vive didn’t stay behind and released Vive Cosmos which is professional grade VR with high resolution AMOLED screens for ultra-clear picture.

There were new entrant like surprise entry from Valve with ultra-powerful Index and Varjo VR-1 which boasts to be the first human-eye resolution headset.

All the above mentioned innovations helped VR to surge significantly so let’s talk about numbers now. Oculus Quest has been one of the most important release ever since VR happened and helped VR hardware spending to grow by 31 per cent over the last year with $2.1B from last year’s $1.6B. Valve got sold out in no time when it was released initially and also with recent Half Life announcement, got wiped out of stores in days. One of the key factor for slow adoption of VR was the price point but Oculus Quest solved it in a way as it provides high quality content and you don’t need a heavy duty PC to run that. Overall VR market is anticipated to be $120B as compared to $7.3B last year.

VR Game Industry

When VR started out, it was primarily a gaming device but not anymore. Gaming is a small fraction of VR industry but still it’s getting stronger and content standard is really improving. Regardless of numbers and dominance, there are two massive announcements which got our eyes back on VR gaming and those are Half Life: Alyx announcement and acquisition of Beat Games (Creator of Beat Saber) by Facebook. Beat Saber is a rare breakout title in VR. Interestingly Beat Saber is a cross platform title but Facebook owns Oculus and still letting it be on multiple platform which goes off to show how tiny VR gaming market is. We also heard conflicting viewpoints of two major players in gaming, Microsoft says that nobody is asking for VR while Sony is getting ready with releasing PSVR 2. Sony has its strong reasons as they sold close to 5M units of PSVR so far.

So is VR gaming not evolving at all. The simple answer is that it’s rapidly evolving. VR Gaming surged with mushrooming VR arcades which is new evolution of an age old business. There are a lot of players in this market and they are constantly evolving. Some of the prominent players are The VOID, Zero Latency, Two Bit Circus and our very own Smaaash apart from many other small and medium players. USA now has over 125 VR arcades and there are VR arcades in all of the major cities of India as well. Free roaming VR and tetherless VR helped this market to grow immensely. When VR gaming started its journey, most of the people rejected stating that gaming is a social activity where group of people meet and play and that’s what multiplayer, free roaming VR offers. Consider this as more of laser tag or paintball with your friend but in the choice of your world and with the choice of your tools. Out of home experiences are not just about setting up VR arcades and offering individual attractions but there are brilliant minds working at bringing new business models for VR arcades like SpringboardVR and SynthesisVR which offer a platform for arcades. They curate content from developers and offer as a catalogue to arcade owners. This is the safest business model also for arcade owners as they are not getting buried under huge cost of buying licensed properties or expensive games and later see less usage of the game. Arcades pay on per minute usage basis which derisk the entire business. Viveport also offers its arcade service to arcade owners.Call it democratising the entire content market for VR arcades.

Companies like Hologate are pushing the limits of high quality out of home experiences. Hologate Arena is one of the most popular attractions used in Location Based Entertainment (LBE) and Hologate recently launched HoloBlitz which is great for racing and flying games. Other companies like D-Box, StrikerVR and many other have developed accessories exclusively for VR which goes off to show that there’s an immense amount of seriousness in this business.

If you observe the story of Superhot VR then you’ll understand that if you do things right in VR, it’s sure going to hit the right chord. Superhot VR  sold more than Superhot non VR version so it’s all about treating the medium right. VR arcade will continue to grow if VR doesn’t become a household thing. Beat Saber and Superhot VR are great validation for players and Hologate, Zero Latency and The VOID are great validation for VR arcade owners operators.

VR Gaming in India

I just hope India doesn’t misses out on what is still a greenfield in the world of VR. India missed many landmark opportunities in gaming where it could play a major role in the global content development but couldn’t because of playing safe. There are only a handful of companies focusing on VR games in India or even considering one in their portfolio but at the same time, there are many arcades opening and startups venturing into this market. Another shining example is that in states like Telangana and UP, even government is bringing VR to educate kids about important topics because some of the key benefits of VR are empathy, presence, be there/feel that factor which let kids understands those topics and also help them understand what can happen if we are not aware. VR in corporate is where VR penetrated really well in India with corporates like ICICI, Mahindra, TCS, Accenture, TATA and many others have adopted and are fairly mature with the VR usecases.

Coming back to games, Gamitronics has its arcade games installed on all popular arcade platforms and at the same time, implemented VR in theme parks, LBEs, FECs and even resorts like Sterling where majority of Sterling resorts are equipped with VR arcades enabled by Gamitronics. Companies like Smaaash, Kaleidoscope and VR Galaxy are pushing their VR arcades in most of the big cities of India with custom content and few licensed content. Jadooz is focusing on similar experiences but focusing on T2 and T3 towns. Another interesting development in India is that elite housing societies and real estate starting having dedicated VR zones which is incredible pattern unlike in any other part of the world. Another interesting development in Indian VR industry is because of the popularity of cricket, there are more than 5 companies offering VR based cricket which in turn resulted into hardware push as most of them developed their own cricket bat controllers but there’s still so much left on the table as other than bat and being in VR, there’s no all round experience but there are companies who are talking about making it more of an experience than just providing In-VR experience.

So in totality, VR gaming has evolved and is making inroads in arcades, VR game developers have proven validation to pursue development activities seriously and there are multiple platforms to launch your game. I’m not hesitant in saying that VR is established platform with proven track record and the only thing missing is reaching every living room but it’s all about great content and hasslefree VR experiences which both started happening with some massive content (like Asgard’s Wrath is 25 hrs long and upcoming Half Life: Alyx) and Oculus Quest kinda hassle free VR headsets. It’s a great time to be in VR business.

 This article has been contributed by Gamitronics CEO Rajat Ojha and AnimationXpress does not necessarily subscribe to these views


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