The news comes at a time when VR is winning profits in the gaming market, partly helped by the general increase in the gaming industry during the pandemic, but also improved VR hardware and software. The release of Valve’s “Half-Life: Alyx”, a AAA game designed specifically for virtual reality, combined with less expensive headphones, helped strengthen the VR market in 2020, according to a recent market analysis.
“If you rewind at three or four years, there were not very many titles that earned over a million dollars,”
Ward noted that VR users increased from 1 percent to 2 percent of total Steam users in 2020, a rate that surpassed Steam’s total user growth last year.
“When my hairdresser comes up [VR game] ‘Beat Saber’ … I feel like we have finally broken through this important barrier and gone to a point where there is an accepted mass market technology, like all other consumer electronics devices, “said Mike Verdu, VP of Content for Facebook Reality Labs. The Washington Post.
VR gaming expenses still account for only a small fraction (0.4 percent) of the revenue of $ 130.6 billion generated by gaming and software manufacturers in 2020, according to market research firm SuperData. While several top-level game publishers are launching streaks for VR game development, there are few virtual reality titles that can match the scope and quality, more or less revenue, of AAA blockbuster franchises and games like “Call of Duty” or “Animal Crossing: New Horizons, ”which consisted of the three best-selling games in 2020, according to market analysis company NPD Group.
But Facebook’s strategy with Quest 2 seems to tackle that challenge. Not only did the latest Quest headset increase its performance specifications and try to offer a more comfortable experience for headset users, but the price dropped $ 100 from the first Quest, which debuted at $ 399. (It also added a requirement that Quest users has a Facebook account, a decision that has discouraged some potential buyers and led to an antitrust investigation in Germany.)
“The cost of VR headphones has been the leading barrier to entry for many years,” said Ward, noting other deterrents such as motion sickness. “It has been number one since we started taking surveys.”
According to SuperData, Quest 2 sold over 1 million units in the fourth quarter of 2020. An increased number of VR headsets in homes will also increase the consumer base for VR game and app developers, and is likely to attract further investment to that area. It can also succeed with titles like “The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners.” In October, Facebook announced Ubisoft, the makers of the Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy Splinter Cell series would bring these franchises to virtual reality. Respawn, another prominent game developer owned by Electronic Arts, produced a version of the “Medal of Honor” series that can be played on Oculus headsets with a PC.
“VR has the potential to appeal not only to players, but also to a wider audience through its ability to provide unique gaming experiences,” said Elizabeth Loverso, VP of Product Development at Ubisoft’s Red Storm Entertainment. For hardcore gamers, it offers a more immersive way to play some of their beloved franchises. VR also appeals to a wider, more informal audience by immersing them in a virtual world without the same complexity that more traditional games rely on. As VR technology continues to evolve and exciting new games are launched, we believe more players will discover the potential. “
The VR user base still has a long way to go before it can be compared to traditional gaming platforms. At the end of November, the market research firm Omdia estimates that a total of 1.2 million Quest units will be sold by the end of 2020. SuperData Research, another market analyst firm owned by Nielsen, predicted that around 3 million Quest 2 units would be sold in 2021. By In comparison, Sony sold 4.5 million PlayStation 5s in 2020, according to the quarterly earnings report, after the console debuted in mid-November.
While Facebook trumpeted the success of the titles in the Oculus store, it refused to share information about the average cost of VR game development, making it unclear whether the $ 1 million revenue figures were really an indication of financial success. In any case, Ward noted that the number of $ 1 million in sales was significantly higher than in previous years, and that Oculus was only part of the VR market.
Although VR games may gain new momentum, some observers, including the man who coined the term “virtual reality” and played a key role in its development, question the ultimate potential of VR games, even though they are fighting for the underlying technology.
“Virtual reality has transformed the world for decades,” said Jaron Lanier, an interdisciplinary researcher at Microsoft. Lanier noted VR’s use in the development of automobiles, surgical techniques and vaccines, with the latter using VR visualizations of molecular interactions. “Gaming is not good for virtual reality, and I do not think it is a technical problem, it is an existential problem.”
Lanier said that a psychological problem manifests itself in VR because the player “with a console, PC or a mobile game is a little bigger than the game. No matter what the game is, it exists on a screen that is not as big as you. You are the master of a “Virtual reality is the opposite, you are in it. It is a different situation emotionally, you feel small because you are small,” he said.
Chris Busse, president of “The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners” producer Skydance Interactive, agreed with some of Lanier’s assessments, but said VR can provide a positive, immersive experience and that there is also room for more intimate, story-based, individual experiences.
“It’s an escapism and an immersion and presence that VR has that you just do not get anywhere else,” said Busse.
Five years into the VR process with Skydance, which has also invested in future VR titles, Busse said he feels that VR game development is still “early” in development.
‘We want to be a part of it,’ he said.